Ruskin Bond’s Book of Nature.
This one came along with the delightful ‘Book of Humour‘. Well, almost. They were separated by just 4 days. Which does not make them twins… even fraternal ones at that… but so what, both make for a very good read!
I finished reading this book a while back… and I wonder how Ruskin Bond manages to weave such simple, joyous tales all the time. Refreshing, fragrant with the smell of nature, and a charm that makes you want to read them again and again. They never let your interest drift or your mind to wander. This one is yet another gem from his treasure-trove. When you relax in your small verandah or on a garden seat, take this book with you and open it at any page. You will be well rewarded.
Having grown up in the hills, in the lap of nature… in once idyllic Mussourie, Kasauli, Shimla, Dehradun and Jamnagar… no one understands nature like Ruskin Bond and it takes his ability to put this wonder into words. He is indeed nature’s favourite child. He has celebrated the wonder and beauty of nature as few other contemporary writers have, or indeed can… for over fifty years and counting. Apparently he has yet to lose faith in Indians. In 2009, a report was published which stated that he was seen going down to the Mall in the evenings and stopping drivers, pleading with them not to honk so much. Bond was 75 then. You have to be made of something special to be that age and yet optimistic about changing Indians. It is an indication of his love for the hills and for nature and speaks volumes of the incorrigible optimist that he is. He is a believer in universal culture. Only someone like him can weave such tales, given the serenity and lyricism of his prose. No one else can. For sure!
In these pages, he writes of leopards padding down the lanes of Mussoorie after dark, the first shower of the monsoon in Meerut that brings with it a tumult of new life, the chorus of insects at twilight outside his window, ancient banyan trees and the short-lived cosmos flower, a bat who strays into his room and makes a night less lonely. He captivates with his collection of nature pieces… not just from the Himalayan foothills that he has made his home, but also from the cities and small towns that he lived in or traveled through as a young man. And he is young at heart. Always. Forever. No wonder he has few equals. He shares a deep camaraderie with nature and his stories flow smoothly like a sparkling brook… no dramatic flourishes, no villains, ugly fights, in them. There is warmth and plenty of it and the simple pleasures of life… which make them so very endearing.
He is a painter of words. Bond uses his pen as a brush to paint captivating images of his observations on and his experiences with nature and beckons his readers into his imagination… like the sweet fragrance of a flower in full bloom during spring. A book that relaxes the eyes, rests the mind, lulls the noise and lets one drift into the idyllic life with nature that most of us are unable to lead… thanks to incessant ‘development’ made in the name of ‘progress’. The ‘Book of Nature’ is liberally sprinkled with gentle humour and gives you the feeling… that you are having a one-on-one conversation with the narrator himself over a cup of freshly brewed filter coffee. Or even a cup of masala chai. It is very, very soothing… almost like a lullaby on a hot summer afternoon. While the fragrance of his words… lingers on and on and on.
Some snippets about Bond: Come every Saturday, the portly figure of Ruskin Bond can be seen at the Cambridge Book Store sipping hot tea and obliging autograph hunters. Opened in 1952, just two years after Bond finished his schooling, he fondly savours the nostalgia of this place.
“I still remember buying Agatha Christie’s ‘Death on the Nile’ in 1965 for Rs. 3 from this store,” says the creative writer strolling down memory lane, while having a cup of tea. Thanks to Bond’s voracious appetite for words in black and white, the store has remained in business. “Bond is a loyal patron of our book shop and his presence provides readers a chance to interact with him,” states 85-year-old LD Arora, the owner of the shop. Unfazed by tourists and their accompanying children, who keep pestering him for autographs, he revels in showing his funny side to all the visitors.
“His mere two hours presence at the shop sells about 50-100 books every Saturday,” discloses Sunil Arora, the owner’s son and a personal friend of Bond.
When Jalandhar’s Vandana and Delhi’s Shelly Jain hurriedly purchased Bond’s books to get them signed, an avid soccer lover opted for his autograph on a Ronaldo picture. “I am also a Ronaldo fan,” reveals the storyteller later, while trying to catch soap bubbles blown by playful children in the shop. Clad in a red jumper, the ageing writer still retains his loyal readers, who seem to keep increasing by the day.
“He has an elephant’s memory,” recalls a lady from Delhi, who had last met Bond 21 years ago during a visit to the hill town as a student of St Thomas’ School and now seen getting a couple of Bond’s books autographed for her children. Funnily, when the poor weather dampened Arora’s business, it was a good time for writers, points out Bond giving slight heartburn to his friend. But how would he walk up to his Landour home without an umbrella?
Ergo, went the shop assistant and came with a bunch of colourful umbrellas. And Bond selected the obvious – the blue umbrella. Was that meant for Biniya – the 11 year old girl and the protagonist of his famous story ‘The Blue Umbrella’? Well, nobody knows. (But as it turned out later, Bond’s beloved Blue Umbrella had a gaping hole and had to be replaced).
In 2007, Bond’s short story ‘The Blue Umbrella‘ was made into a film… directed by Vishal Bharadwaj (of ‘Kaminey’ fame). It had a great lyrical feel and very good cinematography. As far as acting is concerned, Pankaj Kapoor, because of his tremendous histrionic skills, completely dominated the film.
Vishal liked another of his four-page short story, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’. Bond expanded it into a 200-page piece, which could be filmed. The movie was titled ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’… and the cast included Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anu Kapoor and Vivaan Shah. Bond’s protagonist was a femme fatale who bumps off her seven husbands. He had to find ingenious ways of bumping seven people off while writing the story. According to Bond… that’s something he cannot generally contemplate. Interestingly, during production, the film underwent two name changes. The project was initially titled ‘Seven’, which was then replaced by ‘Ek Batta Saat’ and finally ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’.
It seems that the eminent author from Mussoorie is now enjoying his newfound love of acting in films nowadays. He shot a video, along with the noted Uttarakhandi singer Meena Rana recently. Ruskin Bond, speaking to The Tribune, said earlier he used to feel uncomfortable acting, but after his stint in ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, he is now getting used to the arc lights and the glamour world. However, his first love remains writing books, especially for children.
His novella ‘A Flight of Pigeons‘, a story set in Shahjahanpur during the revolt of 1857 was made into ‘Junoon‘ (1978)… starring Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Nafisa Ali, Ismat Chughtai, Tom Alter, Deepti Naval, Jennifer Kendal, Pearl Padamsee, among others… and directed by Shyam Benegal. According to Bond… it was true to the story, only the ending was changed slightly. It was a good film, probably a bit too opulent. The acting, particularly Naseeruddin Shah’s, was excellent.
Ruskin Bond has his modest home miles from the madding crowds in picture-postcard pretty Landour, a quaint little ‘town’ above Mussoorie. His tiny living room is filled with books, pictures and ‘trophies’. The writer’s familiar chubby face is now framed by hair that was ‘more-salt-less-pepper’ and combed neatly, like a schoolboy’s. His eyes are sparkling blue, his complexion a healthy pink, and his smile ever so engaging. While his voice is deep and resonant. Bond has written in almost every genre – short story, novel, poem, travelogue, essay etc… and counts essays and short stories as his favourite forms. Prolific and popular, witty and wise, charming and cherubic, Ruskin Bond commands adulation across regions, age groups and gender. Here is a writer who has defied genres, challenged conventions and remained enduring and endearing down the years… and he believes that in order to become a good writer one has to be confident and perseverant. He says, “At times, when the chips are down and you are disappointed, you have to stick to this. I have seen young people who entered this field, but quit after some time and joined other creative streams like advertising or journalism. I stick to writing, since I had no other alternative.”
Ruskin Bond Profile: Ruskin Bond (born 19 May 1934) is an Indian author of British descent. He is considered to be one of the icons among Indian writers and children’s authors and a top novelist.
In 1992, he received the Sahitya Akademi award for English writing, for his short stories collection, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra, by the Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters). He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 for contributions to children’s literature. He now lives with his adopted family in Mussoorie.
Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh). His father was Aubrey Alexander Bond who served in the RAF during World War II. He had one sister and brother – Ellen and William Bond. When the writer was 4, his mother separated from his father and married a Punjabi-Hindu Mr Hari who himself was married once. At the age of 10, Ruskin went to his grandmother’s place in Dehradun. He has been living in Landour since the 1960s, and has previously stayed at Shimla, Jamnagar, Mussoorie, Dehradun, and London.
Details of Book: Ruskin Bond’s Book Of Nature/ Author: Royina Grewal/ Pages: 312/ ISBN: 0143064231/ ISBN-13: 9780143064237, 978-0143064237/ Publishing Date: 06/01/2008/ Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd./ Price: Rs. 299/- (paperback).
Photograph: Pic courtesy: link.