So, I have been a fan of Ruskin Bond’s writing since I was a child. The mind would wander in the streets of Dehradun and Mussoorie, walking in those woods, and all this would happen without really going there. Ruskin Bond would bring them to you through his words and stories.
The real joy of reading Ruskin Bond lies in wanting to be taken by him through unchartered lands and territories. The idea is to give in to the story, no matter how real or unreal it might seem. That was the way I approached his latest book, “Maharani”.
Going by the title, one can assume that the book is about a queen and rightly so. “Maharani” focuses on an era way gone by (or so it seems from the setting) to current times of royalty (very subtly put in the last chapter).
H.H. (Her Highness but of course) is the spoilt, selfish, beautiful widow of the Maharaja of Mastipur. Her only interests in life: Alcohol and her dogs. She is busy fending off her sons who are only interested in her property. She has a string of lovers, who she discards as easily as taken, and she plays out her life in Mussoorie, in her stately home called, “Hollow Oak”. Ruskin, the narrator is her only friend who is now chronicling her life and memories shared.
The writing in the book is as it should be – enchanting. That is the only word that comes to mind when I read Mr. Bond’s books. Every word is carefully chosen and is not out of place. Every dramatic moment is laced with humour and the reader is not burdened with a lot of emotions, though beneath the surface, there is pathos and loss of friendship. The other characters besides the Maharani are very-well etched – from Pablo, the son of one of Maharani’s lovers to her long trusted servant Hans to a suspicious brutal nun, taking care of the palace.
Ruskin Bond can never write a bad book. However, as a reader I must say that sometimes after you are familiar with a writer’s style, some books do become predictable. For instance, while I loved the way the old theatres and walking paths were described, I knew I had read them earlier in some of his other books. Having said that, “Maharani” is a delightful read about times that go by and times that are yet to come. Of friendships that are forged and decadent lives led in grandeur.