Ruskin Bond is well, Ruskin bond in this collection of short stories titled “Our trees still grow in Dehra”. I suppose this is the first time I am reading some leaves of his own life, about his childhood, his father, his mother and stepfather, grandma and grandma and there are some captivating mentions of the places where he has spent his life.
This book is such a beautiful mix of Bond’s portrayal of relationships, emotions, nature, travelling, reading and most of all, writing. There are around 14 stories in the book, each one a gem. Leafing through stories you will feel like Bond cannot get better than this but you’re wrong my friend!! Bond will surprise you with another story in the same book. I’ve read his books before but they were usually based on people in his life or some work of fiction but in this book he writes in first person and tells his life, his own life. Perhaps there is much to explore, of Bond.
About the author
Born in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) in 1934, Ruskin Bond grew up in Jamnagar (Gujarat), Dehradun, New Delhi and Simla. His first novel, The Room on the Roof, written when he was seventeen, received the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written over 500 short stories, essays and novellas (including Vagrants in the Valley and A Flight of Pigeons) and more than forty books for children. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India in 1993, the Padma Shri in 1999, and the Delhi government’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
He lives in Landour, Mussoorie, with his extended family.
This book is of interest for
- Ruskin Bond lover
- Nature lovers
- Story lovers
Premise of the book
There are around 14 stories in the book which range from his childhood to his adulthood and to his maturity. My favorite ones are Escape from Java, Coming home to Dehra, The last time I saw Delhi and Binya passes by. The stories are simple to read but very deep reaching in emotions. Bond simply wants you to think about things. Take, a pause, observe everything, as he does. We are too fast, quite impatient and restless to see things that matter and Bond notices them. The best thing is that Bond writes about them so that we can at least know what is missing from our lives.
“Escape from Java” contains stories about essence of friendship, struggles of parenthood and miseries of war. The story starts with hearsay that Java might fall to Japanese after Singapore fell to Japanese. Bond is stuck in Java with his father and to accompany him, there was a neighbor friend, Sono.
One day when Sono and Bond were alone, they both decide to cycle in the countryside as there was no fear of bombing, as presumed by Sono. But Sono was wrong, a bomb fell and both of them were badly wounded. This is why Bond is such a special writer. He has experienced such varied things in life. Right from end of 19th century, to the 20th century and currently living in 21st century that sometimes in his stories, it’s not him who writes, but it’s his experiences that speak.
Shortly after this, Bond’s father decides to leave Java and go to Bombay and this arduous journey was to be taken by a sea plane! Sono gifts Bond a little sea horse carved out of a pale blue jade that would bring luck. Then follow some unfortunate series of incidents but Bond and his father are able to reach safely after which Bond was sent to a boarding school in Shimla.
“I felt quite out of place among them, as though I had grown out of their prank. But I wasn’t unhappy. I knew my father would be coming to see me soon. He had promised me some books, a pair of roller-skates, and a cricket bat, just as soon as he got his first month’s pay.
Meanwhile, I had the jade sea horse which Sono had given me.
And I have it with me today.”
My next favorite is “Coming home to Dehra” where he talks about his struggles after coming back to Dehra post his father’s death. The head master of Bond’s boarding school added to his misery by losing all the letters that his father had sent him. Bond goes back to live with his mom, who had divorced his father and remarried and now had a kid. This book explores a lot about Bond’s relationship with his father and mother. Though he did not spend a lot of time with mother and shared a complex relation, he still misses her and one can clearly notice that. He reaches her mom’s home only not to find her. She had gone for shikaar. After they come back, they give a cold treatment to Bond.
“My stepfather barely noticed me. The first thing that he did on coming into the house was to pour himself whiskey and soda. My mother, after inspecting the baby, did likewise. I was left to unpack and settle in my room.”
“The last time I saw Delhi” talks about Bond’s last meeting with his mother as she falls into sickness and the conversation they have is quite an emotional one.
“You have always blamed me for leaving him, haven’t you?”
“I was very small at the time. You left us suddenly. My father had to look after me, and it wasn’t easy for him. He was very sick. Naturally I blamed you.”
“He wouldn’t let me take you away”
“Because you were going to marry someone else.”
I break off; we have been over this before. I am not there as my father’s advocate, and the time for recrimination has passed.
The pain in this conversation finds its root in separation of Bond’s parents when he was very young. Irreconcilable differences between partners often leads to a miserable life for chidren and Bond portrays that conflict of emotion quite precisely.
“Binya passes by” is probably an account of Bond’s love interest in a local mountain girl Biny and their playful interactions. This is the same Binya who is the central character of Bond’s another story The Blue Umbrella. The love between both is very innocent yet hesitant, pure yet secret and I will not call it just an infatuation, it has deeper impression on Bond.
Binya disappears for a few days and it makes Bond, restless.
“But a night assailed by thoughts of Binya. I could not sleep. I switched on the light, and there she was, smiling at me from the smiling glass, replacing the image of the old lady who had watched me for so long”
Who knows Binya came for real or was she again only in Bond’s thoughts?
Rest of the stories were equally enjoyable, as all Ruskin Bond’s stories are.
Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts 🙂