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Spectrum » Books

Posted at: May 13, 2018, 2:34 AM; last updated: May 13, 2018, 2:34 AM (IST)

A lasting Bond with nature

Vikrant Parmar

For some, nature is the muse that engenders inspiration for words poetic; Ruskin Bond, a name that spells charm and awe in equal measure, is the foremost among them. In his latest collection of essays and sketches, A Time For All Things, Bond has every bit lived up to his reputation. Each write-up is sensuous — as in one that delights the senses — and sprinkled with nostalgia, which takes one back to the days of British Raj in India. 

Neatly divided into seven sections — For All Seasons, A Writer’s Life, Family And Friends, The Further One Goes, India: People And Places, Humour and Thoughts From A Window — the author’s compendium is worth its weight in gold. 

As a child lodged in the hostel of Bishop Cotton School, Simla, Bond recalls the time when his father visited him during holidays in the write-up titled Remember The Day. The pathos of the last meeting of the child with his father, who passes away three months later without Bond knowing what destiny had in store for him, is heart-rending. What his father left behind, though, were lessons for life, something which Bond never forgot and even remembers to date.

Then onwards, began his tryst with nature; trees — oak, maple, mulberry, rhododendron, balsam and horse chestnut, talked to him, while monkeys, langurs and bears, befriended him; birds — barbet, grey-headed flycatcher-warbler, grey-winged ouzel and nightjars sang to him, while whistling thrush, swallows and mynas were music to his ears; ladybirds, cicadas, crickets, dogs and cats inspired him and flowers, jasmine, roses, hibiscus, cannas and geranium, soothed his soul. 

Before long, an author was born and soon enough he moved to London, where he longed for a typewriter as a youngster, who never knew he would be awarded at the age of eighteen! In the essay, The Typewriter, he reveals how he bought his first typewriter after taking a loan from one Mr Bromley; a loan he could never repay! ‘Nothing is insignificant; nothing is without consequence in the intricate web of life’, he believes. 

Grown up as a renowned author and back in India, his bond with nature grew stronger, especially at the place he made his abode — the Mussourie hills. In the write-up The Leopard, he reveals how too much familiarity with humans sounded the death knell for the canine — it’s a tale that evokes the author’s sense of oneness with nature; one who sees ‘beauty in the smallest things and in the most unexpected places’. 

Bond’s relation with his grandfather is brought out amiably in The Man Who Loved Trees — he loved his family and each moment has been his companion ever since. ‘It is the simple things in life that keep us away from going crazy’, he avers. 

As a learned soul who moved on with each step, he sprinkles pearls of wisdom as he gained from experience and assiduous learning. In The Postman Knocks, Bond goes back in time, to reveal the story of the mail-runners of India — the veritable carriers of people’s emotions when emails were a far-fetched dream. Those were the days of letters and telegrams, and Bond brings them back like a postman from the past! 

When one talks of ghosts, ghouls and spirits, Ruskin Bond’s name willy-nilly props up. His benevolent treatment of our nether-world friends is humorous and chilling at the same time. In the Ghosts Of A Peepul Tree, he differentiates between a pret, churel, pisach and munjia; all variations of spirits that prefer to make their abode atop the Peepul tree. Almost always, it’s the unexpected that delights us, is his strong belief. 

In Kipling’s Simla, Bond narrates how he encountered a leopard inside a tunnel, along with the khilasi, the station watchman, and how they saved its life from the incoming train. 

Bond playfully quotes a forgotten freelance writer, Red Smith, who said, ‘Writing is very easy. All you have to do is sit in front of the typewriter, until little drops of blood appear on your forehead’. Something which Bond has done enough, felt enough! 

A lover of solitude, he ‘prefers walking alone to walking with others’.  The great man still chooses ‘contemplation to meditation’ and loves the ‘charm of the unexpected’. The Thoughts On Passing Eighty is a honest confession on life as he has lived it. At the denouement of a collection that is not a piece of fiction, Bond’s message for the reader stands out, ‘May you have the wisdom to be simple, and the humour to be happy’. Profound!

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