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AN UNDYING BOND

The India I Love By Ruskin Bond, Rupa, Rs 295

The jacket of this book of poems and prose states that the India Ruskin Bond loves does not make it to the headlines. But he finds it wherever he goes, and in the hearts and minds of people who have given him love and affection for the better part of his lifetime. However, a question keeps nagging — is it all about the India that he loves or is it about the Ruskin Bond that he loves' It is true that Bond writes straight from his heart and writes best when he is talking about all that he cares for. That is perhaps why the book has so much of “him” in it.

The world that Bond perceives as India seems to be enclosed within the geographical space of Mussoorie and Dehradun. Be it “Children of India” or “And Now We are Twelve” orThe India I Carried with Me” or “Joyfully I Write”, it is all about his adopted family, friends, himself and the Garhwal hills. So if one expects to find India in this book, one would find only a particular region of it as perceived by a particular Indian.

In one of the accounts, Bond refers to his longing for India when he was abroad. “It was more than nostalgia, it was a recreation of the people, places and incidents in India. I did not want it to fade away. The riverbanks at Hardwar, the mango groves of the Doon, the poinsettias and bougainvillaea parade ground, chat shops near the Clock Tower, the summer heat, the monsoon downpours... .” What he carried with him was the Garhwal region, the geographical space that Bond considers to be his India.

The thing most enjoyable in this book is what we find about the writer. Bond states that he writes for the pleasure of writing and those who enjoy his works perhaps read them for the simple pleasure of reading. His writings have a languid yet cheerful quality about them, and have a beautiful way of permeating the reader’s mind.

Bond tells us about his early writings, the cheques that bounced, the lawsuit against him, his crushes, his affairs and so on. There is, however, no attempt to sensationalize or cover-up any of these. Rather, the events are written about in a laid-back, casual and frank manner. The reader is treated as a friend and yet kept at a distance by a detachment in the style of writing.

There are some poems in the book as well. Though nothing great, they have an ebullient quality about them. “Local Team” is the pick of the lot, which is about his locality, yet it manages to capture the spirit of the nation. The cartoons by Sandip Adhwaryu are a curious mix of the styles, sometimes imitating newspaper cartoons, but always charming.

A veteran writer, Ruskin Bond shares his experiences with gay abandon in the book. The writing reflects the sweetness of the small town that he lives in. Bond belongs to that old breed of writers who gave primacy to the art of story-telling.

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