GAUTAM KUMAR BORDOLOI
The greatness of Ruskin Bond as a writer lies in the fact that he handles apparently simple subjects that make profound impact on the readers leaving food for thoughts that need consummate rumination. Not for nothing he is aptly dubbed as “India’s most loved writer’.
I, as an admirer of his writings, feel that the ‘affable uncle’ has been telling the same story over the decades: the heart has an equal right to play with the head for a meaningful existence in pursuance of happiness. In his own words: “I have followed instinct rather than intelligence, and this has resulted in a modicum of happiness”. And that is the pure happiness of a golden heart.
All his literary works—be they short stories for children, his moving poems and colourful portraits of “friends in small places”, thoughtful essays and delightful novels—all earned him a dedicated band of readers. I come back on and off to his ‘The Room on the Roof’, his first novel and for which he received the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957; his 1992-Sahitya Akademi Award winning collection of short stories ‘Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra’; and his two autobiographical musings—‘Scenes from a Writer’s Life’; and ‘The lamp is Lit’, particularly when I feel low and need to pep up my sagging morale. His words do the wonder and transport one to a higher plane with ethereal beauty.
We must be thankful to Speaking Tiger, the publishing house, for giving us recently another book by Bond entitled, ‘A Book of Simple Living : Brief Notes from the Hills’. This sleek volume is rightly said to be “a gift of beauty and wisdom for readers of all ages from India’s most loved writer”. The pages of this journal are replete with variegated pictures of Nature in different moods, particularly up in the great Himalayan range, unforgettable stories of friends and acquaintances, in addition to recording “the many small moments and inspirations that add up to a life of harmony”.
Here we find him laying on the grass under his favourite cherry tree sipping the beauty of the pink flowers blossoming against a clear blue sky. He lists the simplest things in life that are best to provide us happiness in abundance—and they are: “a patch of green; a small bird’s nest; a drink of water, fresh and cold; the taste of bread; a song of old; the laughter of a child; a favourite book; flowers growing wild; a cricket in a shady nook; a ball that bounces high; a summer shower; a rainbow in the sky; the touch of a loving hand; and time to rest”. One also gets mesmerized by the beauty of the scene: “Mist fills the Himalayan valleys, and monsoon rain sweeps across the hills. Sometimes, during the day, a bird visits me—a deep purple whistling thrush, hopping about on long dainty legs, peering to right and left, too nervous to sing. She perches on the window sill, and looks out with me at the rain”. And sometimes a squirrel comes, too, when his home in the oak tree gets waterlogged.
No particular order regarding the subjects is maintained in the book and that only enhances its beauty and total effects. These are randomly made notes of illuminating thoughts. From the enduring fragrance of carnal pleasures to ennobling teachings of marigold, daisy, cosmos, petunia and so many other objects that we easily find in the lap of benign Nature, Ruskin Bond has deftly woven a magical world in the book which is simply remarkable. As he puts succinctly in its introduction: “For all its hardships and complications, life is simple. And if you look upon the world with love, it is beautiful”.
Well, in this age of growing materialism where intolerance is a despicable byproduct, this is indeed a book to be read by people of all ages.