In the last few years I have passed through Deoli many times and I always look out of the carriage window half expecting to see the same unchanged face smiling up at me. I wonder what happens in Deoli, behind the station walls. But I will never break my journey there. It may spoil my game. I prefer to keep hoping and dreaming and looking out of the window up and down that lonely platform, waiting for the girl with the baskets. I never break my journey at Deoli but I pass through as often as I can.
You might’ve seen some really tear-jerking movies, but few movies tug at your heartstrings like this concluding paragraph from The Night Train At Deoli does. That’s Ruskin Bond for you. Simple, thought-provoking and nostalgia-inducing. Provided he’s read in the language that he writes in.
For, the work of one of India’s most beloved writers is akin to the craft of Gulzar and Tagore (at least in my humble estimation it is). Any dilution, any translation and any editing take away the soul of the work.
It needs to be read in its original language, in its entirety.
I precisely remember the first time I read Khaled Hosseini. I remember the first time I was introduced to Murakami. I remember the first time I’d read The God Of Small Things.
But I don’t remember the first time I read Ruskin Bond. And that I think is a compliment to his writing skills. For it takes a man with special skills to not barge into your life, but seep in very gently and then become a part of your literary DNA.
It’s as if he has always been with me. He was this endearing presence throughout my childhood who would later become a sweet reminder of an era gone by, once I grew up.
The one thing that separated Ruskin from other writers was the fact that he spoke to me. He knew me and I knew him. Amidst my parents’ bickering and peer pressure, he was the one who quietly told me that every situation can be fixed.
That the point of no return is a myth.
His words gave shape to my ideas. He was the first, and perhaps the only writer till date who could capture every emotion in 4-5 words.
Now that I’m a working student, every time I get disenchanted with the monotony of the city life, I’m reminded of what he had to say about it.
“The city is nothing but a beautifully wrapped gift box with nothing inside”.
Every time I feel my past is catching up with me, I make peace with the fact that ‘the past is always with us for it feeds the present’.
Every time I have to deal with a separation, he’s the one who tells me that ‘some moving forces in our lives are meant to touch us briefly and go their way’.
As a child, every time the world became too pragmatic, he was the one who told me that there’s still some room left for fantasy.
That it was perfectly fine if I wanted to open a zoo in my house, that a puppy love can be more intense and pure than anything we discover as adults and that there’s still magic left in the humdrum of the neighbouring bazaar.
Yes, there is something special about the way Bond writes. There’s no flowery language. There are no extravagant situations. The emotions are simple and so are the characters; devoid of complexities but enriched with peculiarities.
It didn’t matter whether it was a short story or a novel, the essence always remained the same. Right from The Room On The Roof, the first novel he’d written as a 17-year-old to his later works, nobody could infuse a new narrative in the everyday humdrum of our lives as Bond did.
“If nothing exciting is happening around you, you can always write about a dream you’ve had. In fact, some of my early stories are based on dreams,” he’d said while addressing some young writers a few years back.
Perhaps that’s why his writing looks so honest. Perhaps that’s why there’s not an iota of pretence in his narrative.
I grew up and so did Bond. Or at least his writing did. As I revisited some of his old classics, the subliminal narratives beneath the evident plotlines slowly began revealing themselves.
It was Bond who told me that no matter how many times your heart gets broken, no matter how many times you lose your way in life and no matter how many bad people you meet in your journey, you will be okay. As long as you have a song on your lips and some coffee in your cup.
“But what if my books don’t work one day?” he’d once asked his grandchild in a book.
“Then we can always sell anda-bhurjee outside Cambridge bookshop,” the child replied.
“Yes, anda-bhurjee would be nice”.
And it was that simple.
At least one story or a novel by Ruskin Bond is a part of the 3school curriculum all across the country. And for good reason too. Depending on the mood and the situation, he was my confidante, my partner in crime, my guide, my mentor and sometimes, all of them rolled into one.
I’m pretty sure there must be millions like me who’re glad they ‘Bond’ed with the best during their childhood.