So here it is – the first post of 2013. And from the stacks and stacks of books I seem to have devoured in the recent time of transit the one I want to
talk about first is Ruskin Bond’s Roads to Mussoorie.
I’m unsure how many of you would be familiar with the name of Mr Ruskin Bond (no relation to the more famous Bond, of course) as I’m doubtful that his works have been published anywhere but India.
That, however, doesn’t mean YOU should stop reading this!
That minor misfortune notwithstanding, here in India, Mr Bond is easily one of our most prolific writers. Through a career that spans the better half of a century – his first work being published at around 19 and him being somewhere in his 70s now if I’m not wrong – Mr Bond holds a place that’s quite unquestionably unique in our literary diaspora. For me, because he has the unique advantage of being an Englishman more Indian than many Indians you’ll likely meet. Born and brought up in India to English parents, I love the window that Ruskin offers us into a bygone India. The India of the British Raj; of Imperial India as seen by an Englishman. An Englishman whose understanding of the country, therefore, is quite unique. (Easiest for those to understand who have some acquaintance with the country.) And that coupled with his inimitable writing style is what makes his stories so …delightful!In case you’re wondering why this post appears to be more about the writer than about the book it’s simply because in Mr Bond’s case you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. For Mr Bond is one of those writers whose personality leaves an imprint on all he writes about. Not least because he mostly writes about himself or in the first person. Of course, if the stories are true he seems to have lived an exceptionally colourful life! Though since I’ve had the opportunity to meet him I can vouch for some of those at least to be true!
In Roads to Mussoorie, Bond writes of his adopted hometown Mussoorie, a minute and cold hill town settled in the higher reaches of a Himalayan State. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he reminisces of a Mussoorie that was, shrouding it in a mist of wistfulness. With a sharp eye and his incorrigible sense of humour Bond writes of everyday things, painting a picture of a sleepy little hill town with its enchanting walks and arduous climbs and simple townsfolk. And then proceeds to cheerfully tear the picture to shreds with detailed accounts of what lies beneath. All this without a hint of malice. By the end of the book you feel as though you know all the people Bond talks of and were personally witness to all their little scandals and foibles.
All in all a delightfully humorous read I hope all of you can get your hands on! An absolute 5!
If you’ve read it, or any other book by Bond let me know what you thought!