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Five famous works of Ruskin Bond that are seasoned with all traces of emotions

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By Prachi Mishra

It’s not just the distressing sagas of childhood and love, people and trains, the hills and rains, which quickly found their way to our hearts, but it’s also the simplicity that Ruskin Bond sprinkled in his stories that lingered for long in our minds.

An Indian author of British descent, Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli in 1934, and spent most of his childhood amidst the Himalayas; no doubt his writing captures the local elements of the hills.

Known for his contribution to children literature, Bond has written over a hundred short stories, essays and novellas in his literary career of 40 years.

On his 81st birthday, NewsGram presents you five of his most famous works, seasoned with all traces of emotions.

The Room on the Roof

The Room on the Roof is the first novel written by Ruskin Bond. The book also fetched him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957.

The story revolves around a 16-year-old boy, Rusty, who lives with his English guardian, after his parents’ death. He, being unhappy with the strict rules of his guardian, decides to break free one day. One day, Rusty goes to nearby market and makes many friends and starts living there. Eventually, he discovers that life is not that easy and he has to face a number of challenges that are waiting for him.

In his first written venture, Ruskin Bond has depicted a story of growing up, love, friendship, and responsibilities. It does not depict the age of adolescence merely as frivolous, but Rusty’s thoughts about his life, his insignificance, make the novel reflective. The novel engages the attention of the young and the adults alike.

Our Trees still grow in Dehra

Ruskin Bond received the Sahitya Academy Award for this written piece in 1992.

‘Our Trees still grow in Dehra’ is a collection of short stories, closely linked with each other. It traces the life of Ruskin Bond from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

In this work, he also raises his concern over the changing lifestyle of the mountains – the massive amount of deforestation and the extinction of wild-life. He wonders that now there would remain only the artificial and lifeless landmarks created by man.

The Blue Umbrella

This is a story of a girl, Biniya, living in a village in Garhwal region. Her blue umbrella is the focal point of her life and a common envy of the remote village.

A shopkeeper Ram Bharosa is particularly enamored of the umbrella and his apprentice offers to steal it for him. He loses the respect of the villagers for his misdeed and is banished from the village.

At the end of the story, Biniya takes pity on the isolated man, and breaks the ban imposed on him and gifts him the blue umbrella.

This book also found its way to the silver screen through a movie made by Vishal Bharadwaj.

 A Flight of Pigeons

This novella has a different theme than Ruskin’s other works. It is based around the 1857 revolt in India.

The story is about Ruth Labadoor and her family (who are British) who take help of Hindus and Muslims to reach their relatives when her father is killed in a church by the Indian rebels. In the backdrop of the story, the events of the Revolt of 1857 are presented artistically in bits and pieces. Finally, the story ends with English army once again taking over the city almost after a year.

A Fight of Pigeons was made into a television series called Junoon.

The Night Train at Deoli

The story, told in first person narrative, is about a college student reflecting on his annual visits to his hometown Dehradun. On one of the trips, he notices a beautiful girl selling baskets on the street and fantasizes about meeting her.

In subsequent years, he continues to fantasize about her but never pursues her. It’s the story of an unspoken yet powerful attraction and of the student’s regret for never having acted on his passion.

This short story vividly depicts the profundity and flux of human emotions.

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“A Suitable Girl”: Most Awaited Novel By Vikram Seth, Finally Published

Seth suffered from writer's block after his break-up

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"A Suitable Girl": Most Awaited Novel By Vikram Seth, Finally Published, flickr

Hardly has any novel been awaited with as much curiosity and anticipation in recent times as Vikram Seth’s sequel to the monumental “A Suitable Boy” (1993). Five years on, since he was first expected to deliver the manuscript, the novel is still to see the light of the day. But what seems like a saga of missed deadlines can very well — far from our eyes — be a masterpiece in the making.

“The more I talk of her, the more shy she becomes,” Seth had told this correspondent in 2015 about “A Suitable Girl”, the novel-in-waiting.

Seth, as his literary agent David Godwin puts it, has been known to take his time with his books. The prolonged delay, however, was not acceptable to Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and he was asked to return an advance payment of $1.7 million when the deal was called off. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, an imprint of the British publisher Orion, then acquired the novel — and it was scheduled to release in 2016.

But a flying bird — a friend and confidant of the writer — says that he is now giving the “final touch” to the novel and that one can expect “the big announcement” soon.

Seth released a collection of poems titled “Summer Requiem” in the meanwhile. In the collection, he traces the immutable shiftings of the seasons, the relentless rhythms of a great world that both “gifts and harms”. Composed as they were while he was (which he still is) writing the sequel, several poems in the offering open doors to his mind, or perhaps they may be preludes to the larger narrative that he is weaving.

“I have so carefully mapped/the corners of my mind/that I am forever waking/in a lost country,” he writes in the opening poem. Interestingly, Seth’s companion to “A Suitable Boy” will be a jump sequel — the characters have travelled from the 1950s and it will be very much a novel set in somewhat the present times.

novels By Vikram Seth
novels By Vikram Seth, flickr

In its title poem, he mourns that the “liberated generation lives a restrained youth,” and then adds: “I must forsake attachment”. On another occasion in the book, readers find him lamenting over “the peaceful love” that the narrator has “never found”. In another short poem “Late Light” he writes: “Outside the great world’s gifts and harms/ There must be somewhere I can go/To rest within a lover’s arm/At ease with the impending snow”.

Reportedly, Seth suffered from writer’s block after his break-up with French violinist Phillippe Honor but that was a long time ago and was reflected in “An Equal Music”. He has moved on or has he not?

Nonetheless, it has been about five years since “A Suitable Girl” was first expected to hit the stands but the wait is surely worth it. As writer-politician Shashi Tharoor says about his good friend’s technique — that “Vikram Seth draws an entire roadmap of his novel, planning every minute element in great detail” — the sequel, thanks to all the anticipation and the pressure on the writer, may actually be a masterpiece in the making, as sublime as its counterpart and yet set in the time of its readers.

Vikram Seth is a recipient of the Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, and among several other prestigious honours, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. He has been widely translated and is among leading novelists on the global stage. He has published three novels — “The Golden Gate” (1986), “A Suitable Boy” (1993) and “An Equal Music” (1999) — along with several collections of poetry such as “Mappings” and “All You Who Sleep Tonight”.

Also read: Here is all the reason for Bookworms to look ahead for the upcoming year: A List of the Best Stories and Novels in 2017!

Seth — an openly gay man — is also one of the prominent faces of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. (IANS)