–Review by Shweta Raj Kanwar
‘Journey down the Years’ is a Nature lover’s delight. From the very first chapter till the very last, the reader is taken on Ruskin Bond’s Wonderland- to put it right. However, as simple and predictable as it may sound given the fact that Ruskin Bond is seen presenting his own experiences, we would assume that he would be the protagonist here, but here is where the mystery lies!
On a personal note, I was never an ardent follower of Ruskin Bond and had only read snippets of him and about him before. But this book however caught my attention- firstly due to its fine cover which appealed me to pick it up and secondly the title, that seemed to somehow make up for all the other books written by the legendary writer that I had not read before. The book, as I presumed, looked like a summary of Bond all through the years and it was an opportunity for me to get a sneak peek into the celebrated author’s life, hence why not!
But, soon I realized I was in for small little surprises with each passing chapter. And, here is where the mystery begins to unfold itself! Halfway through the book, one begins to realize that although Bond might very well be narrating his own life experiences, the focus of the protagonist is gradually shifted from Bond to somebody else or for that matter to other things.
As one delves deeper into the title of the book by the legendary writer, a sneak peek into the life of the writer is what one is presented with. As a novelist and story teller, Bond has drawn upon his memories of places that he has known and lived in over the years. From the streets of England that never really fancied him to the bustling Indian railway stations and the serenity of the Himalayas coupled with his fondness for the rich Indian history and his ‘Gran’s’ food recipes and pickles in Dehra, the simple things have been etched in his mind and more so, the heart of the story teller and they all seem to manifest themselves in a manner that takes one to Ruskin Bond’s life story.
The ‘Mountain Boy’, as Ruskin Bond fondly describes himself through the pages of his book, is free spirited and very close to nature. The book also offers an unexpected revelation, especially to the delight of readers from Northeast India- In a chapter called ‘Gran’s Kitchen’, Bond reveals, “I would spend atleast a month with Gran before going over to my parents in Assam. My father managed a tea plantation there…..” Not only this, unknown, yet effective natural facts like “Geraniums, my Grandmother said, kept snakes away because they could not stand the smell of these flowers”, are popped up time and again to add to the knowledge of readers.
This book also acts as a book lover’s muse as Bond makes mention of some celebrated authors and their books like Rudyard Kipling and his 1901 novel Kim, Mark Twain and his admiration of Indian Railway stations from which he derived inspiration for most of his works and a lot more that will arouse the reader’s curiosity levels to explore these books.
With a knack for minute details, as is seen from the narration in his collection of short stories, he successfully makes the reader step on his shoes in such a way that even the most practical audience who might not be very close to nature, like the self here, was drawn towards the mesmerizing history of the city of Mathura, the fragrant aura of different flowers that ranges from carnations to honeysuckles, the bloodsucking lizard that totally contradicts its name, the crow, or should I say the ‘master of existence among all creatures’ and the ‘low flying’ bat that is rare to only some areas in India- all this and more. In just 118 pages of ‘Journey through the years, the reader gets a little more wiser and begins to appreciate Nature a lot more while getting a firsthand experience of the life of the master story teller himself!
I also found some awesome quotes to live by like, “Once you have lived with them (the mountains) for any length of time, you belong to them”. And some great lessons to learn too- “Along with a large number of different trees growing below the cottage, it fell to the contractor’s axes…”, and “Both (Younger brother and the tree) victims of the road- the tree killed by the PWD, my brother by a truck” and one of the most awesome quotes being, “Never mind. Men come and go, the mountains remain”, how true is that!
By the end of the book, the reader realizes that the hero of the story is not Ruskin Bond, for in his shoes; we were made to believe what he believed in and to experience what he wanted us to. The story in itself emerges to be a protagonist and this is the kind of magic that Bond weaves in the minds of readers through his book. It teaches us to appreciate and observe the simple and good things in life and above all, to Listen:
Listen to the night wind in the trees,
Listen to the summer grass singing;
Listen to the time that’s tripping by,
And the dawn dew falling.
Listen to the moon as it climbs the sky,
Listen to the pebbles humming;
Listen to the mist in the trembling leaves,
And the silence calling.
BOOK TITLE: Journey Down the Years
AUTHOR: Ruskin Bond
PUBLISHER: Rupa Publications Pvt. Limited
PRICE: Rs. 195
NUMBER OF PAGES: 118