A Gathering of Friends by Ruskin Bond
It’s a joy to read Ruskin Bond. His simple stories re-create a life in Dehradoon and around on paper for you. He just picks up scenes and short anecdotes, often involving himself and weaves his magic. Thereafter presents them to you in such a way that you feel you have been a part of that scene. In this anthology A Gathering of Friends, Ruskin Bond picks up his favorite stories from across his works and presents them to you like the best bouquet from his garden.
You get acquainted with the children of hills who live with the natural elements. Be it winters or waters of the river, they live with the wild animals including man-eaters as a way of life. And who can be sometimes more mature than the adults around them? You see the simplicity of mountain lives. You see the everyday challenges that the people there live with. And the simple joys of their lives.
He brings out the relationship between humans and animals in its various shades. From fear that they have from each other to companionship to almost being a family member. The story of a man-eater in a village is a strong one. When villagers without any help from anywhere manage to free their lives from a man-eater. He brings out the children’s urge to go to school, to be educated and the efforts that they are willing to make to be educated.
Ruskin Bond also takes you to the world of Anglo-Indians – the corners of the Doon valley that belonged to them only. And some of them did not even know there was a different world outside of their world. He talks about his father and his last words to him. Talks about studying in a boarding school in Shimla. He also talks about his fascination for railway stations and his urge to look beyond the walls of railway platforms.
He remembers the people he met on railway platforms with his laser sharp memory. Quite a few of his stories revolve around the time he spent in the trains moving between his home in Dehra and school in Shimla. He talks especially about women with whom he gets attached to. I loved the story of Sushila – the love interest in two of his stories in this anthology. He presents the near real life situations with such ease that you know this is how it happens. You probably know a few characters from your life with similar stories.
Bollywood has made movies of at least two stories and I have seen both the films. The Blue Umbrella and Sussana’s Seven Husbands. The first one is a delightful story about a young girl and how the life comes full circle for her after she barters her neck piece for a blue umbrella that fascinated her. The filmmaker, though, changes the second story making it very different. And so small that you wonder at the film director’s vision to create a 4-page story into a full-fledged film.
I also liked the cover design – golden and green haze – representing the golden milestones and the green trees that are always a part of Ruskin Bond stories.
Highly recommended you to read A Gathering of Friends, Best of Ruskin Bond on a single platter.