Ruskin Bond

“As I walked home last night, I saw a lone fox dancing in the cold moonlight.
I stood and watched. Then took the low road, knowing the night was by his right.
Sometimes, when words ring true, I’m like a lone fox dancing in the morning dew.

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 her 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 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, since 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.

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 as uncommon a pet as a python. You will find Uncle Ken, who is an impressive character, his father, whom he holds so dear and lost at the age of 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 into his rather dull and lonely life. And then you will find Maplewood and Ivy cottage, the constant abode in his stories where he struggled as a writer while enjoying other aspects of his life.

There is a fulfilling presence of nature and animals in his writing, with a recurring presence of the mountains of Dehradun and of the window in his 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 very much alive in his books, like the Python, which always does some mischief and scares Aunt Lizy, or when a snake and a mongoose fight while a crow and mynah play the roles of both the referee and spectator in the story, The Banyan Tree.

Though he was born and brought up in India, he is 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 leaves a message in his books to pause, take a deep breath and notice, observe and enjoy things from right where you are.

His stories have a unique tinge of loneliness and solitude, and that solitude will never make you feel lonely, for 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 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 the characters share, and also the characters themselves, who are equally pure and real. In The 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. Ruskin Bond writes his stories with the utmost patience and meticulousness. You will always find clarity in his thoughts, and he uses the right words at the right places. His writing feels 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 who 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. Bond’s stories are earthly, yet so beautiful. 

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Focusing on Literature and Lifestyle of the Urban Youth of the Country, LitGleam is a monthly magazine, an intrinsic part of BlueRose Publishers.

Within its pages, our readers find provocative essays on literature and lifestyle, guidance for getting published and pursuing writing careers, in-depth profiles of poets, fiction writers, and writers of creative nonfiction, and conversations among fellow professionals.

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