15 August 2009

Ruskin Bond's Notes from a Small Room

Author: Ruskin Bond
Pages: 171
Publishers: Penguin
Publishing date: 2009
Price: 225

A room with a view

Moments of inspiration come to all of us. These are times when our imagination takes flight and there's an urge to pen down a few lines. It happens to me during the monsoons - seeing how lovely everything starts looking. The rains are infinitely romantic and there's a regenerating beauty to the season that is quite hard to describe.
It is with this sense of endless wonder and child-like joy that Ruskin Bond writes from his small room about all things that make an impression on him. And with his ardor for nature, even an ant's movement doesn't escape his sensitive eye.
The book - most of it are entries from his diary- is an ode to all things close and dear to him, wherein Ruskin Bond describes the mountain steam lined by white blossoms with as much tenderness as the potted geranium plant in his house. His joy at seeing seedlings break out from mother earth in the monsoons is only equaled by the wonder he feels watching the variety of insects emerging after a hot summer.
Most of the descriptions are about nature but Ruskin Bond’s affection extends to many other things, of which he makes some poignant notes. My favourite chapters (if they can be called that, because most of them are no more than 2 pages) all relate to the author’s description of his personal life – his childhood, some tender moments with his father, his struggle to become a writer. Another touching episode relates to his type writer, which he couldn’t afford entirely and his clerk/housekeeper buys it for him.
Then there are some reflections on books, the way only a bibliophile would do it; talking about how books and their curative properties, the charm of pocket-books and what it means to be a bibliophile.

Most of these entries are random writings, penned down over the years by the author and hunted down to make a compilation. The result is a charming little book, with some of Ruskin Bond’s most simple and instinctive reflections. He tells you that his writing has not changed much, "That's because I haven't changed myself" he says. And that is true in some ways, as it's hard to tell which of these articles were written 20 or 30 years ago. They all carry Ruskin's trademark simplicity, a naivete but a refreshing candour. Above all, writing that reflects a rare humaneness and passion for life the way God created it.
There is no great philosophy or profoundity that Ruskin Bond tries to achieve in his writing (and he says so himself in one of his chapters). When a bright young thing asks him for his philosophy in life, he is unsure what to say even at 75. At first depressed at not being able to come with an answer, he later reminisces, "I realised no philosophy would be of any use to a man so susceptible to changes in light and shade, sunshine and shadow. I was a pagan, pure and simple, a sensualist; sensitive to touch and colour and fragrance and odour and sounds of every description; a creature of instinct, of spontaneous attractions, given to illogical fancies and attachments. As a guide, philosopher and friend, I am of no use to anyone, least of all to myself."

For me, the book is probably not as memorable as Ruskin’s others works like Binya’s Blue Umbrella or some other stories I read in his Childrens Omnibus. But it has a nestling beauty that comes with all things that are private and pretty- a favourite bylane, the fragrance of a flower or the arresting beauty of the morning sun rise


PS: There are almost 40 entries – with lyrical titles like ‘catch a moon bean’ ‘trees from a window’ ‘monsoon medley’ 'a lime tree in the hills' that instantly draw you in with its imagery.

3 comments:

Diwakar said...

I grew up reading Ruskin Bond but I guess it was more than 10 years ago that I read his last book... "Delhi is not far". Then life happened and as it happens to most of us (Except Mr Bond perhaps) suddenly we find ourselves pulled into the middle of the flow. As I go along from days to months to years flowing fast in the flow, I can still catch a glimpse of the idle shores where life still has a slow drifting speed. I think I will read this book, hopefully sometime soon. Thanks for the review

sonia said...

very nice story i like it.

sonia said...

very well story.