Ruskin Bond is one of India’s favourite writers. He has been writing for over five decades, and his repertoire is impressive—poetry to non-fiction, he seems to have written it all.
What makes Bond loved and admired is his simple narrative style which draws you in and takes you on a walk along with him past streams, mountains and the odd city road. There’s so much to see and admire, beauty even in the smallest wayside weed.
The books reviewed here are all collections. I Was the Wind Last Night is a collection of poems, Unhurried Tales is a collection of his novellas and A Time for All Things is a collection of essays and sketches.
Irrespective of the form, all of Bond’s writing shares a certain setting from one of the stages in his life—growing up in Dehra(dun), life in the mountains, life in small towns and Delhi, and his time abroad. He takes us through various facets, incidents and experiences in his life and between the three collections we see how the writer uses the same ideas differently in different forms. In the poem ‘A Song For Lost Friends’ he talks about the various stages of his life, and it gives us a good idea of the person he is, and his life.
Bond’s writing is always close to nature. No matter whether it is a piece on the last tiger, or a tale set in a town, his landscape is filled with trees, rivers and hills, and the flora and fauna to accompany them. The earth and sky aren’t mere props in the background, but an active part of his world. And when one writes about nature, it is inevitable that there’s a sense of time and season innate to each piece. This, along with Bond’s inimitable style, teleports us to a world which is real and fantastic at the same time.
Bond’s writing has its own innate humour and joy. He makes you smile in little ways, and revel in the pristine world of the Himalayas and its dense jungles. Over the years his writing also talks about the human-animal conflict and its impact on the world he loves so much. But despair not, for he writes with hope and possibilities.
Bond’s poetry has its own rhythm and flow. It shows us how observant the author is—he seems to notice everything from an ant carrying its load to owls hidden in tree trunks. We get to travel with the author up forts and hills, to Agra and to Delhi, to the bookstores and trees of Dehra, to the slopes of the mountains around Mussoorie.
Much of Bond’s writing is unhurried, as his collection of novellas is called. The pace of the stories is at a saunter, allowing enough time to note the trees and everything they hide within. His characters are lively and jocund, and yet the tales leave us much to think about and feel.
While Bond is a writer for young and old, the collections reviewed require a fairly mature reader, and should be appropriate for nine years and above.
Reading Bond is an important part of your life—he take you on a stroll up a hill and teaches you to note the plants and trees, to listen to the songs of the birds and the roar of a tiger in the distance, and to follow a stream to the river, and along the way tells you stories to remember forever.
Vishesh Unni Raghunathan is a poet and Chartered Accountant from Chennai. He also owns a DSLR.