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Little Humour, Better Verse

R. Rajagopalan

By Ruskin Bond
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2008, pp. 278, Rs. 195.00

By Ruskin Bond
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2007, pp. 135, Rs. 160.00


Can an author be equally good writing adult fiction, children’s stories, poetry, humour, and non-fiction? This question occurred to me while reading the two books by Ruskin Bond. I have enjoyed reading his short stories in the Collected Fiction, published by Penguin in 1999. For example, I found the very first story in that collection, ‘The Woman on Platform No.8’, very moving. So was ‘The Kitemaker’, another story in the same book.   The blurb says, ‘Ruskin Bond’s Book of Humour will make even the hardened among us crack a smile.’ That did not happen in my case. Bond’s introduction to the collection was funny, but the writing that followed left me unmoved. Most of the pieces have an autobiographical touch and are centred around Bond’s life in the hills. There is humour of a mild variety, but not enough to make one laugh—the way, for example, reading Wodehouse does.   The pieces have been grouped under Crazy Relatives, Crazy Creatures, Crazy Places, Crazy People, and Crazy Writer. I liked the last section best, because it gave an insight into Bond’s experiences as a writer. The first piece, ‘Landour Days’, is about the author going to the market to buy the latest issue of The Illustrated Weekly, which carried the first installment of his novel. I found it touching rather than humourous. The piece ‘A Knock at the Door’ describes a typical day in the writer’s life. His visitors include a vegetable seller, a policeman carrying the DIG’s book of poetry, and, of course, the postman with the rejection slips and the occasional cheque. Again, it is a simple account of a day, but barely funny.   Ruskin Bond obviously mixes fact with fiction in the section Crazy Relatives, which contains stories about his uncles and grandfather. They are dry accounts of the way Anglo-Indians lived at that time. I did not find the exploits of Uncle Ken and Uncle Bill very funny. Crazy Creatures include a crow (that tells its own story) and a parrot (that does not talk). Ruskin Bond’s careful observation of nature comes through in this section.   Vignettes of small-town life are found in the section Crazy Places—ghosts in the Hotel Savoy, elections in Barlowganj, and the shops of Sisters Bazaar. About Crazy People, I can only say that I found the pieces very boring.   Ruskin Bond and Penguin must ...

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