Saturday, June 15, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

The Name’s Bond, Ruskin Bond

We must move on, of course…But there’s no harm in indulging in a little nostalgia. What is nostalgia, after all, but an attempt to preserve that which was good in the past?

Update : 16 Jun 2022, 12:04 PM

Bond had been a discovery of haste for me. I needed a book for my baby brother’s birthday. A pile of children’s book was lying on the floor in Gyaankosh, and I just picked up a book with a nice cover. Little did I know, that one thoughtless act would have a lifelong impact on my reading. The book was meant for my brother, but I decided to give it a go before I handed it over. Once I turned the pages, there was no turning back. 

This Bond is not 007, but he is no less mesmerizing than his fictional namesake. Ruskin Bond is not a chic, fighting, cunning secret agent. He is an auteur with unmistakable romanticism who celebrates elusive memories, small moments of rash decision, and sudden friendships one strikes with strangers. 

Happiness is as exclusive as a butterfly, and you must never pursue it. If you stay very still, it may come and settle on your hand. But only briefly.”

Bond drove me towards reading prose that has very slow speed, prose that is not much eventful, with just one or two characters, but loads of natural beauty spelled into each sentence. His bittersweet indulgence with nostalgia is unparalleled: “The past is always with us, for it feeds the present.”

Ruskin Bond was born in British India. After losing his father to the Second World War, and with his mother remarrying, he spent his childhood with his grandparents and amongst local friends like the tonga drivers and the pea nut sellers of Missourie. His first novel, “The Room on the Roof” written when he was only seventeen, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. As a teenager, he spent 4 years in the small town of Jersey in the Channel Islands and London as a clerk. But, whereas millions of South Asians pine to move to London, Bond pined to return to India. He missed the mangoes, the sunshine, and the fragrance of the soil.  In 1955 he settled in the mountain ranges of Dehradun and has been writing from there ever since. He received the Sahitya Academy Award (1993) and the Padma Shree (1999). Priyanka Chopra starred as the protagonist in a thriller based on Bond’s scintillating story “Susannah’s Seven Husbands.” The Blue Umbrella” is another of his celebrated novel turned into children’s movie.

The best of Bond’s writing celebrates solitude and nostalgia. 

We must move on, of course…But there’s no harm in indulging in a little nostalgia. What is nostalgia, after all, but an attempt to preserve that which was good in the past?

 in Maharani, he shows the beauty within pain, the peace within the melancholic solitude. “Time Stops at Shamli” elates the contentment of life in everyday mundane chores, the worth of small things in life, and the joy within. He showed it was possible to live a vast life, if one’s mind and heart is big enough, without moving around too much. He showed the worth of liberty. His words contain magic within themselves. He has the power to create a world of illusion through his words, but it is a world which through the illusion connects to this muddy land, this sweaty weather, this moist, swampy way of living. It always seems to be a life so familiar, and yet so remote. His insight and analysis of things show how an ordinary person can live a grand life. Bond’s characters explore how it feels to be God by sowing a Cherry Tree, the strength of dream in the words of a lonely blind street beggar who shows how dreams ensure the becoming of a man. We see the pithiness of human body in the local palwan, the awkwardness of adolescence in his beloved Rusty who tried to fathom life from his drop of spirit.   But Bond’s own world keeps itself at bay. His seems to be world of reverie, his adopted family with Rakesh and Beena, his gardener Dhuki. Bond’s analysis of children psychology is incomparable in South Asian writers. Chachi’s Funeral captures how strict disciplining often drive children to despair, yet their sweet innocence always wins and leads them back to family. 

Bangladeshi readers are not very familiar with him, especially since no Bangla translation is available of his works. But Bond holds a treasure trove for our young minds. Before knocking into him, I really did not know how to look at life, how to measure memories. Though I still have many qualms as to my life and existence, and thought still I fail to catch up with his rhythm, yet the world he paints through his masterful strokes for me is a sanctuary. It is a haven far from the madding crowd. I still try to picture the Landour Bazaar and the night train at Deoli Station. I yearn to roam through the valley, and I do so when I turn his pages. There are two camps of readers pitting Bond against RK Narayan. But to compare Dehra with Malgudi, there is no winning. It is not the reader but the book who makes that decision, and once chosen, a reader belongs to an author for life.  

Bond never wrote to entertain. He wrote just because he wanted to write. It gives me kind of happiness to think that his pages somehow managed to find their way to the readers with the enchantment intact, surviving the cruel editorial abridges. And isn’t that what makes one a magician? That Ruskin Bond, unlike so many of us, knows how to transform the humdrum into a joy worth perceiving?  And isn’t it the reason why I still, six years after making his acquaintance, hold him in awe, completely mesmerized?

Arpeeta Shams Mizan is a sociolegal researcher and a teacher of Law. She is doing her PhD at University of Bristol.

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