A Painter of Words
Subhadra Sen Gupta
RHODODENDRONS IN THE MIST: MY FAVOURITE TALES OF THE HIMALAYA By Ruskin Bond by Ruskin Bond Aleph Book Company, 2019, 344 pp., 699.00
August 2020, volume 44, No 8

If you are living in a limbo you need the company of old friends. All my life I have cherished silence but during the first weeks of the lockdown, when silence lay over my noisy city like a pall of gloom, I began to hate it. I yearned for the sound of the vegetable vendor’s call and the scream of planes flying overhead at dawn; of children playing in the park and if nothing else, then at least the doorbell ringing. I found it hard to focus and I could not write.

Well, if your writing juices are drying up, all you can do is read. There was a stack of new books sitting enticingly on my table but they did not interest me. Instead I pulled out my most battered and beloved books from the back of the bookcase: Alexander McCall Smith and PD James; Lila Majumdar and Sharadindu Bandopadhya in Bengali and of course Georgette Heyer. These old friends took me through those early days of living in limbo and I should have added Ruskin Bond to my reading pile. After all, he is a very, very old friend.

This collection of forty-eight stories is divided into two sections: ‘The Dark Side of the Mountains’ and ‘Himalayan Drama’ and most of the stories have been published multiple times. Bond has only added three new tales. As my eyes drifted down the long list on the Contents page, I spotted old favourites like ‘Panther’s Moon’, ‘The Overcoat’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘Getting Granny Glasses’ and my absolute favourite, ‘The Cherry Tree’.

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