Daily Archives: September 25, 2011

Book Review: Secrets by Ruskin Bond

Title: Secrets
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0-143-41749-1
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 150
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There is only one Indian living writer I know who still manages to evoke my childhood memories that either seem long time gone or buried for good. That writer is Mr. Ruskin Bond. Though his stories are primarily set in Dehradoon, everyone who reads them can successfully conjure the picturesque beauty in his or her mind and that is the power of good writing.

My stint with Mr. Bond’s works began when I was all of sixteen and it wasn’t with his most acclaimed The Room on the Roof. It was with “A Flight of Pigeons” and it is but obvious that I fell in love with it, though it is one of his more serious works. What I love about Mr. Bond’s writing is that you don’t feel that you should be of a certain age to enjoy it. So when I received a copy of “Secrets” – his latest collection of seven new short stories, I was only too eager to read and review them.

The stories have the classic Bond touch – the description of a sleepy Dehra, the usual simple characters and a touch of quaintness, which is why I love reading what he writes. The stories in this book are set in the late 40’s – a time when India had just become an independent nation and Rusty was all of thirteen. His mother was a manager at a hotel called “Greens” at Dehra and he would stay there when visiting home from school on holidays. Times were tough and it wasn’t easy to make a living – amidst these circumstances, events started unfolding in and around the hotel, which form the crux of this book in the form of wonderfully told stories.

We meet “The Skeleton in the Cupboard”, where as the title suggests a Skeleton is found in one of the rooms and the mystery around it is uncovered. “Gracie” on the other hand is a sentimental tale of a Dehra girl’s descent into something else altogether as she marries a British Army soldier and moves to London. “The Late Night Show” revolves around the murder of a man in a theatre during the late night show and of course Ruskin was present – watching the show when the murder took place.

These three stories were my favourites, hence the mention. Not to say the other four are not worth it. It is just that these three appealed more to my senses. Ruskin Bond’s stories warm the heart and sometimes take you by surprise. They take your mind to a different time – a time when life was simpler and one did not have to think so much and but of course the credit goes to the way they are written. A must read.

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Book Review: Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times by Mahasweta Devi

Title: Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times
Author: Mahasweta Devi
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 9788170462910
Genre: Translated Fiction
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Once again Mahasweta Devi has touched upon the lives of those who are never noticed, never cared for. And her pen cuts a deep wound in the minds of readers, forcing them to sit up and discern the essential from the inessential.

Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times is a touching tale told in first person of a woman, Bedanabala, whose mother used to live in a brothel. These reminiscences are sometimes personal, sometimes historical. The story begins in the late 19th Century, with the “theft” of a beautiful girl child from a wealthy family. She is Bedanabala’s mother. She grows up in the house of ill repute, to be groomed to enter the profession once she has come of age. But then, Did’ma, the owner of the brothel, grows to love this beautiful child as she would her own daughter and does not want her to enter this profession. She seeks for her a life of a householder. It is story that is seldom told. Did’ma’s contribution to the war effort, her donations to the fighters of India’s freedom and her gifts to the mission are her way of atoning for her sins.

The story is set in a changing India, an India poised on the threshold of progress and transformation. New thoughts and ideas are forming in the minds of idealistic youth and nationalistic passion runs high. I like how she merges topics – nationalism with the issue of prostitution and yet none of them are glorified. She writes the way she imagines and the way she has known. There is not an ounce of superficialness in her penmanship skills.

Mahasweta Devi’s Bedanabala. Her Life. Her Times empathises with a section of women that is misunderstood and disapproved of. She narrates the story with great sensitivity, skilfully weaving into the story a changing India and nationalism. I am a great fan of her works and that is only because she knows how to write and write well. The book is translated by Sunandini Banerjee.

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