What is it about Bond’s stories that keep you glued to his books? You know his characters, you know his setting and you know him. Still, you look forward to reading his short and sweet stories. They are like a visit to the Terai. A conversation with the trees there and your feet feeling the touch of the kuchcha roads there. You can hear the roar of the man-eaters in its jungles. This story Maharani most certainly looks like a memoir even after the disclaimer saying it is not in the Author’s note.
Maybe it came out of his part memory part imagination after visiting an old crumbling house in Mussourie. That brought back memories of old times – when it used to be alive with people, people from the upper echelons of the society, their lifestyle, their eccentricities and the lives they dictated. Ruskin, as himself, narrates the story of Maharani of Mastipur, who was his school time friend. And with whom he remained in touch throughout his life. He sums up the declining state of the Indian Royalty in this couplet from an American Song:
- Take my rubies and take my pearls,
- Take my camels and take my girls,
- I’m the rich Maharaja of Magador!
The story is primarily based in Mussourie. Where the Maharani lived barring some scenes in Delhi where the author off and on lived. And in Pondicherry where he meets her after a long hiatus. The author in his signature style creates the ambiance for you, naming all the colonial buildings and tracing their connections back to their original owners. Narrating the coming down hotels, the cinema halls playing Hollywood movies and expat families living there. He paints the royal residences where there are more animals than humans and where life is a party dipped in alcohol. He adds a twist here and there linking the historically known facts to the story. And makes you wonder if it actually happened this way. It also adds the suspense element to the story.
He brings out his own loneliness in both hills and in Delhi. His writing style changes completely when he is writing about hills and about Delhi. For the hills he is all tenderness, for Delhi, it is a matter of fact. He weaves in his own attachments in the story with a little boy or for the Maharani herself. He also mentions his brush with the films at the late stage in life, adding to the too real to look fiction angle.
Overall, what makes the book interesting is the Bond’s writing style and his evocative narrative of the places and people in the story, with ample wit and humor in dialogues.
A very readable Novella that you cannot take more than one sitting to finish…
You may buy this book – Maharani by Ruskin Bond at Amazon.
Following are the author’s other book reviews.