Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Ruskin Bond Reviews

The shelf that had Ruskin Bond's books was heavy. It was filled with so many of his books that I was taken aback. He wrote seventy! I got myself a 'Best of Ruskin Bond' which I read first, all along the route to Dehardun.

The Best of Ruskin Bond (Penguin, Rs. 325,428 p)
Best of Ruskin Bond

This book has several delightful short stories, each of the perfect length to make you want to finish one before you move on. The first lot of stories are about 'Love and Friendship' and I can recollect most of the stories even now. I particularly liked the 'Night Train at Deoli', 'The Thief', 'The Kitemaker', ' A Guardian Angel' - well I liked all of them. Most are set in Dehradun and surrounding areas of course, as almost all his stories are. Then there are a series of short stories under the section 'Tales of the Macabre' which is about murders and gjinns and ghosts. Then there is a section of 'Essays and Vignettes', which are snapshots from his life which by now you can relate to after reading the first two sections. I loved the next section 'Travel Writings' which I must revisit after seeing many of the places he has mentioned. The other sections comprise 'Songs and Love Poems' which I skipped, 'Scenes from novels', the story 'Time Stops at Shamli' and 'Delhi is not far' which has not been published before.
All in all a delightful, comfortable read.

A Handful of Nuts (Penguin, Rs. 150, P 120)
 A Handful of Nuts

I love the size of his novellas, they are so perfect. I do not understand why anyone should want novels only of a particular length. I am so glad he chose this length and stuck to it. Anyway 'A Handful of Nuts' is a story about youth but written from his current days. In fact as the blurb says, it is about the twenty first year of his life which he fells is the most significant year in anyone's life.

Set in Dehradun it is about a wannabe writer who is young and footloose and the many people he meets and add to the colourful tapestry of his life. From the Maharani who has eyes for the young lad, Sitaram the son of the local dhobi and his friend and several of his other friends, the novel has some great characters and fun moments. And again, it is a delightful, light read told in first person.

A Season of Ghosts (Penguin, Rs.250, 210 p)
A Season of Ghosts

This is a collection of ghost stories and a novella of a detective story. The ghost stories are all short stories and I was not particularly impressed by them - however I later realised that ghost stories are great to tell other people. I think we all like to scare other people which could be one reason why ghost stories are popular. Most are the kind of urban legends you grow up with and well, good to chat about over a camp fire.

'Who Killed The Rani' is a detective story that starts promisingly. I was not too pleased with the ending though which seemed rather lame for a story otherwise promising much. However the characters were very interesting - the inspector of police Keemat Lal, the Rani herself, her friends, the grocer, butcher. But again, like all his other stories, easy to read, not too taxing and never so boring that you want to get away from them.
I would say that ghosts and detective stories are not what Mr. Bond writes best, though they are written very well and are engaging. I however liked his tongue-in-cheek stories about small town life or descriptions of children in the children's stories much more.

Roads to Mussoorie - (Rupa & Co, Rs. 95, 125 p)
Roads to Mussoorie

Roads to Mussoorie is a memoir. One can visualise a twinkle in his eye as he starts with a 'Backward' and not a Foreword and ends with a 'Forward'. Ruskin Bond recounts the many breakfasts he has had - ham, jam, bread, sausage etc, remembers the many travels to Delhi by car and the various people he met during his travels, the cold beer shop, explores Kipling Road. He dwells on the shrines he has seen in the Himalayas, lovingly describes the trees he sees outside his window, recounts some more ghost stories, some of the parties he has been to in Mussoorie, the treks he took.
I found the stories full of information, great humour and insights into how he has lived his life. For example how he has signed books under the names of Botham, R.K.Narayan, Enid Blyton. Mark Twain and so many more. Truly a fun read. It also makes you want to go to Mussoorie!

Landour Days (Penguin, Rs. 175, 141p)
Landour Days

Small diary like entries about Landour where he lives, in Mussoorie, on the hilltop. About friends, flowers, trees, animals, people, incidents. Many funny incidents of people and the way they deal with him.
He has split the book into sections based on the seasons - Summer, Monsoon, Autumn and Winter and has divided each section into each month. And each month has its own stories, its own memories.
The book is dedicated to the founder members of the Writer's Bar which he says has kept him in good spirits. These founder members - Ganesh Saili, Nandu Jauhar and Vishal Ohri - appear in many books and references of his.

I still have his book 'Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra' which I need to read. It has his story 'The Flight of the Pigeons' which has been made into the movie 'Junoon'.

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