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The Bond Magic

Ranjana Kaul

By Ruskin Bond
Puffin Books ; Rupa, Delhi, India, 2014, pp. 340; pp. 395, Rs. 299.00; Rs. 295.00


The simultaneous publication of two anthologies of the works of Ruskin Bond, Uncles, Aunts and Elephants, and The Very Best of Ruskin Bond is ample proof that he continues to be one of the best loved and admired writers today in India. While a few stories and essays, such as ‘Wilson’s Bridge’ and ‘Bhabiji’s House’ appear in both the selections, the first published by Puffin, is evidently meant for a younger audience. The second anthology offers a more exhaustive view of the development of the writer’s work with the contents being arranged in chronological order. Bond is perhaps one of the first Indian writers to entice a generation of children into the world of books by bringing alive an imaginary/real world which is endearing in its simplicity, gentle realism, humour and humanity. A lot of his writing is about life in the hills, about places like Dehra, Mussoorie, Shimla and Landour, about his love of nature and about his own experiences. Like R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi, the world of Bond’s fiction is a complete world with which children can easily identify. Nevertheless, this is not merely an idyllic world. There is no romanticizing of events or of the lives of the hill people, just an appreciation of their stoicism and hardiness. Human existence is admittedly frail, unpredictable and often unhappy but it is gloriously interspersed with moments of beauty, wonder and warmth. Bond’s writing is often subjective, almost as though he is recreating, revisiting and reimagining his own experiences in literature. In the introduction to Uncles, Aunts and Elephants he acknowledges that he draws upon the memories of his childhood, events and people to keep up ‘a steady flow of tales.’ The frequency with which the personal pronoun ‘I’ is used in his fiction gives the stories an immediacy and also reinforces the reader’s impression of sharing the experiences of the writer and his extended family and friends. He engages his young reader by addressing him directly, making him or her feel a part of an ongoing conversation, using rhetorical questions as a means of capturing his attention. In ‘Garden of a Thousand Trees’ he asks, ‘Have you heard of the Garden of a Thousand Trees? Probably not. But you must have heard of the town of Hazaribagh in Bihar,’  (p. 200). He draws the reader into his world commenting chattily on loony ...

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