Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Delhi is Not Far: The Best of Ruskin Bond, 1994

© Wikimedia Commons
Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond have common ground in India. The British novelist, born in Wales to Norwegian parents, and the Indian author, born in Himachal Pradesh to British parents, are two very popular writers of children’s literature. Their books are prominently displayed in Indian bookstores and continue to sell in good numbers.

Bond, 80, is more Indian than many Indians and this reflects in his vast body of work consisting of many novels, short stories, essays, and songs and love poems. He writes about life in the hill stations close to the Himalayas in North India. The award-winning author has been singularly responsible for the growth of children’s literature. Bond was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, in 1934, and now lives with his adopted family in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, at the foothills of the mountain range. He has never left his adopted country.


© Prashant C. Trikannad
In many ways Ruskin Bond reminds me of that other celebrated Indian writer, the late R.K. Narayan, who wrote about the charming life in a small fictional town called Malgudi in South India. While Bond’s and Narayan’s stories essentially grew out of their experiences in the north and south, respectively, their writing styles run parallel in terms of simplicity and lucidity of prose.

As with Roald Dahl, both young and old read Ruskin Bond and R.K. Narayan. They are the ambassadors of Indian literature.

© www.littlesistersofthepoor.in
I don’t think I have written about Ruskin Bond earlier. An opportunity arose when I recently bought his collection, Delhi is Not Far: The Best of Ruskin Bond, 1994, from the annual charity sale at Home for the Aged run by Little Sisters of the Poor, founded by Jeanne Jugan in 1839, in France. The old-age home is located behind my house and I have picked up many good books from their yearly fair, as much for a charitable cause as for my own.

Delhi is Not Far is a 428-page anthology of four decades of Ruskin Bond’s writing, particularly the best of his prose and poetry and essays and short stories. India Today has described his writing thus: “Bond’s sentences are moist with dew and the mountain air, with charm, nostalgia and underplayed humour… (he is) our resident Wordsworth in prose.”

While I read his stories a long time ago, this is the first time I’d be reading them in an anthology and I’m looking forward to it, especially his five tales of the macabre. I didn’t know Ruskin Bond wrote those too. He begins his introduction with these lines: And here I am again, in my little room overlooking the winding road to Tehri, writing another introduction. No one has ever offered to write an Introduction for any of my books, and so, perforce, I must do my own.”

9 comments:

  1. Never read any of Bond's work. Sounds like I need to have a look see.

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    1. Charles, Ruskin Bond offers an unhurried look at life and its vicissitudes. Indian readers can relate to his stories.

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  2. I'm not familiar with Bond to be honest. Probably not enough time and too many books waiting already to explore further,

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    1. Col, I understand. Not many outside the subcontinent would have heard of Ruskin Bond. He has many loyal fan readers in India.

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  3. I too am unfamiliar with his work - it's shocking how little some of us know about books outside our own countries - I'm glad we've got you to tell us about Indian writers.

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    1. Moira, you'd be surprised how little I know about authors from my own country. I see a lot of new fiction by new-age writers in bookstores which indicates that the Indian book publishing trade is doing well.

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  4. Every time you write like this about Indian writers, I want to retreat into a quiet corner with a comfortable chair and a stack of books by them. I've read Salman Rushdie, but I don't know whether he counts.

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  5. Forgot to wish you a Happy Diwali. Hope it was a good one.

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    1. Ron, thank you. Diwali was noisier than last year with revellers firing crackers and bombs past midnight. My pet dog took the brunt of it. She cowered in fear and lost her appetite. Diwali is no longer the festival of light and joy it is meant to be. The only thing I look forward to during the festival is the three-day holiday.

      Salman Rushdie counts as, unlike V.S. Naipaul, he is an Indian author born in Mumbai. His MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN is one of the best novels I have ever read. The prose is scintillating. There is great variety in Indian literature, both in English as well as in English translations of fiction written in India's many regional languages, such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and Tamil.

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