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.