This one came along with the delightful 'Book of Humour'. Well, almost. They were separated by just 4 days. Which does not make them twins... even fraternal ones at that... but so what, both make for a very good read!
I finished reading this book a while back... and I wonder how Ruskin Bond manages to weave such simple, joyous tales all the time. Refreshing, fragrant with the smell of nature, and a charm that makes you want to read them again and again. They never let your interest drift or your mind to wander. This one is yet another gem from his treasure-trove. When you relax in your small verandah or on a garden seat, take this book with you and open it at any page. You will be well rewarded.
Having grown up in the hills, in the lap of nature... in once idyllic Mussourie, Kasauli, Shimla, Dehradun and Jamnagar... no one understands nature like Ruskin Bond and it takes his ability to put this wonder into words. He is indeed nature's favourite child. He has celebrated the wonder and beauty of nature as few other contemporary writers have, or indeed can... for over fifty years and counting. Apparently he has yet to lose faith in Indians. In 2009, a report was published which stated that he was seen going down to the Mall in the evenings and stopping drivers, pleading with them not to honk so much. Bond was 75 then. You have to be made of something special to be that age and yet optimistic about changing Indians. It is an indication of his love for the hills and for nature and speaks volumes of the incorrigible optimist that he is. He is a believer in universal culture. Only someone like him can weave such tales, given the serenity and lyricism of his prose. No one else can. For sure!
In these pages, he writes of leopards padding down the lanes of Mussoorie after dark, the first shower of the monsoon in Meerut that brings with it a tumult of new life, the chorus of insects at twilight outside his window, ancient banyan trees and the short-lived cosmos flower, a bat who strays into his room and makes a night less lonely. He captivates with his collection of nature pieces... not just from the Himalayan foothills that he has made his home, but also from the cities and small towns that he lived in or traveled through as a young man. And he is young at heart. Always. Forever. No wonder he has few equals. He shares a deep camaraderie with nature and his stories flow smoothly like a sparkling brook... no dramatic flourishes, no villains, ugly fights, in them. There is warmth and plenty of it and the simple pleasures of life... which make them so very endearing.
He is a painter of words. Bond uses his pen as a brush to paint captivating images of his observations on and his experiences with nature and beckons his readers into his imagination... like the sweet fragrance of a flower in full bloom during spring. A book that relaxes the eyes, rests the mind, lulls the noise and lets one drift into the idyllic life with nature that most of us are unable to lead... thanks to incessant 'development' made in the name of 'progress'. The 'Book of Nature' is liberally sprinkled with gentle humour and gives you the feeling... that you are having a one-on-one conversation with the narrator himself over a cup of freshly brewed filter coffee. Or even a cup of masala chai. It is very, very soothing... almost like a lullaby on a hot summer afternoon. While the fragrance of his words... lingers on and on and on.
Some snippets about Bond: Come every Saturday, the portly figure of Ruskin Bond can be seen at the Cambridge Book Store sipping hot tea and obliging autograph hunters. Opened in 1952, just two years after Bond finished his schooling, he fondly savours the nostalgia of this place.
"I still remember buying Agatha Christie's 'Death on the Nile' in 1965 for Rs. 3 from this store," says the creative writer strolling down memory lane, while having a cup of tea. Thanks to Bond's voracious appetite for words in black and white, the store has remained in business. "Bond is a loyal patron of our book shop and his presence provides readers a chance to interact with him," states 85-year-old LD Arora, the owner of the shop. Unfazed by tourists and their accompanying children, who keep pestering him for autographs, he revels in showing his funny side to all the visitors.
"His mere two hours presence at the shop sells about 50-100 books every Saturday," discloses Sunil Arora, the owner's son and a personal friend of Bond.
When Jalandhar's Vandana and Delhi's Shelly Jain hurriedly purchased Bond's books to get them signed, an avid soccer lover opted for his autograph on a Ronaldo picture. "I am also a Ronaldo fan," reveals the storyteller later, while trying to catch soap bubbles blown by playful children in the shop. Clad in a red jumper, the ageing writer still retains his loyal readers, who seem to keep increasing by the day.
"He has an elephant's memory," recalls a lady from Delhi, who had last met Bond 21 years ago during a visit to the hill town as a student of St Thomas' School and now seen getting a couple of Bond's books autographed for her children. Funnily, when the poor weather dampened Arora's business, it was a good time for writers, points out Bond giving slight heartburn to his friend. But how would he walk up to his Landour home without an umbrella?
Ergo, went the shop assistant and came with a bunch of colourful umbrellas. And Bond selected the obvious – the blue umbrella. Was that meant for Biniya - the 11 year old girl and the protagonist of his famous story 'The Blue Umbrella'? Well, nobody knows. (But as it turned out later, Bond's beloved Blue Umbrella had a gaping hole and had to be replaced).
Photograph: Pic courtesy: link.