“As I walked home last night, I saw a lone fox dancing in the cold moonlight.
I stood and watched and then took the low road knowing the night was by his right.
Sometimes when words ring true, I’m like a lone fox dancing the morning dew.”Ruskin Bond quote
Ruskin Bond is the lone wolf dancing in the hills of Mussoorie who has been weaving magic in the form of stories for adults and children alike. If India has to find its Roald Dahl, we will find him in Ruskin Bond, who writes beautiful stories for children. His stories, where his grandfather tickles a tiger or where Binya holds the blue umbrella dear to are a delight for his young readers.
His books touch multiple themes and, contrary to his reputation of being a children writer, he is equally competent in writing love stories and the socio-political realities of its times. Flight of pigeons, which has been adapted into a movie by Vishal Bharadwaj, covers the time of 1857 revolt and its consequences. In his Coming round the mountains, he writes about how independence and partition affected the school life of a 12-year-old boy. He does not write like a historian; rather, he writes stories around the events which remain relevant even if those events took place decades and centuries ago.
We can sense his writing acumen from his first book itself, Room on the roof which Bond terms as a “book written about adolescence by an adolescent”. Rightly so, Rusty is 17 years old in the book and Bond was 16 years old when he wrote the book but his young age does not stop him from creating a masterpiece that later won John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. Rusty is an interesting character in his books whose name sounds very similar to the first name of Bond. He is a curious young boy who sometimes indulges in fun while painting a world of loneliness and solitude, which resembles the life of Bond.
Also read: Sunny skies and good vibes: Room on the roof
As you read more works of Bond, you will become familiar with the people that surround the space of Bond’s imagination and his real life. His grandfather is perhaps a fictional character, as Bond had told in one of his interviews. Grandpa is a funny character who loves keeping pets which Grandma never approves of, and he sometimes keeps a pet as uncommon as a python. You will find Uncle Ken who is an impressive character, his father whom he holds so dear and lost him at 10 and his mother, who had always remained distant from him. His dear friends, Somi, Ranbir and Kishan are also his real life friends, and they infuse life to his rather dull and lonely life. And then you will find Maplewood and Ivy cottage as the constant abode in his stories where he struggled as a writer while enjoying times of his life.
There is a fulfilling presence of nature and animals in his writing with recurring presence of the mountains of Dehradun and of his window in Landour home that opens to the hills of Mussoorie. He will instill an urge in you to leave the hustles of the city and settle in the mountains to observe nature. The animals seem to be so much alive in his books, like the Python which always does some mischief and scares Aunt Lizy or a when a snake and mongoose fight in which a crow and myna play the role of both the referee and spectator in the story, the Banyan tree.
Though he was born and brought up in India, he was of an Anglo-Indian descent which brings a peculiar essence to his stories and makes him observe things which normal Indians would take for granted and ignore. The Indian railway stations, the bazaar, the aloo tikki, the festival of colors: Holi, etc are things which are tangible but his depiction makes them elusive. He will make you miss things in your life which remain unattended; the dew on the grass or squirrels eating nuts in your backyard. He quietly gives a message in his books to take a pause, take a deep breath and notice, observe and enjoy things as and where you are.
His stories have a unique tinge of loneliness and solitude and that solitude will never make you feel lonely. There is optimism in his solitude. The solitude gives him a space to conjure up a world of his own in which he always has a company. Though his love stories never end on a happy note, which might be because Bond’s love stories never materialized, the stories won’t make you feel sad. Instead, you will cherish the pure love that characters share and also the characters which are equally pure and real. In Night train at Deoli and Time stops at Shamli, he gives a touch of reality which doesn’t have a happy ending unlike movies and perhaps that is also why Bond’s stories end in a similar fashion.
Bond is a patient writer, and he writes his stories with utmost patience and meticulous efforts. You will always find clarity in his thoughts and he uses right words at the right place. His writing seems like a journey, sometimes short in the form of short stories or novellas and at other times, a long spiritual journey in the form of a novel. He is a storyteller and he entwines stories around normal characters like Binya who runs around the town with her blue umbrella or sometimes around unusual characters, like Ketan in The crooked tree, who aims to clear his matriculation exam despite being an epileptic. His stories are mundane yet so beautiful.
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