BOOK REVIEW: A GARLAND OF MEMORIES by Ruskin Bond

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–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    It is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. It reminds me of a book titled ‘Glimpses of Bengal’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore that I had read some time ago. Glimpses of Bengal is the English translation of Gurudev’s letters that he had written in Bengali, and they indeed were rich with scenic description and personal thoughts when he was a youth.

    It appears to me Ruskin Bond has taken the cue from Gurudev in converting his essays and short stories into a publication titled ‘A Garland of Memories.’

    The book is a Natraj Publishers publication and is available in Amazon for Rs 173.

    It’s a flavoursome narration of essays and short stories by the author. On a day when you have nothing much to do, pick up, this book and you’re sure to have a good time. It’s a slim spine just about 146 pages.

    The author narrates the most interesting tales, from his chance encounter with Rudyard Kipling’s ghost, to his adventures with his eccentric Uncle Ken; being witness to a bitter battle between a brave snake and a brave mongoose and two foolhardy birds. It is about the hungry pet python who ate up everyone’s lunch and the mythical snow-woman who almost exists.

    The narration is in Bond’s unique, lucid, simple prose and is based on his real life experiences. I’m amazed at Ruskin Bond’s ground knowledge, of forests, animals, flora and fauna, and the jungles of Mussorie, Dehradun and one can say the entire Uttarakhand. In that he very aptly mixes the experiences of his three year stay in Europe. And, oh boy, with that, the cocktail becomes ecstatic. I expect this collection to make smile laugh and even cry.

    There are in all thirty-four chapters—comprising essays and short-stories. They were originally written for various Indian publications—The statesman, Times of India, Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald, among others—and several were published in the children’s magazines and some even in foreign magazines.

    Friends, if you are interested in nature, don’t miss books, such as, ‘Glimpses of Bengal’ and ‘A Garland of Memories’ that describe the nature of yester-years so very well. Mind you with the degradation of environment and the cutting of forests and trees, such books are becoming more and more precious or you could say priceless. The book also glimpses past a ghost story.

    A line that I particularly liked in the book goes as follows:

    Live long, my friend, be wise and strong,

    But do not take from any man his song.

    Having canvassed so much about the book let me also narrate a synopsis of an episode out of it, that’ll give you an umbrella flavour of the content. It is about flattery. Narration is in first person.

    When I was a boy in Dehradun, there was a mango-grove just opposite my bungalow. It belonged to Seth Govind Ram (May his soul rest in peace). During the mango season, it was fiercely guarded by a giant chowkidar called Phambiri. All my efforts to get into the mango-grove were normally repulsed by him. On one occasion I even received a mild lathi-blow on my backside.

    ‘I just want to climb the tree,’ I pleaded.

    ‘Come back when the mango season is over,’ said Phambiri with a vicious smile copied from a filmi-villain.

    I then discovered he was an ex-wrestler. A champion in his youth, who had the distinction of over-throwing the great King Kong (I did not know at the time that King Kong, in his bad years, was constantly being thrown out of the ring). Whenever I passed the grove and saw Phambari, I would comment on his great strength, his superb physique, his muscles like cricket balls, and his bull like neck and shoulders. Gradually he warmed up to me, and began to tell me of his exploits. I acclaimed them. Then he showed me his feats of strength, like picking up rocks and hurling them across the road. I applauded and applauded. And before long, he invited me into the mango grove, and by the end of the week I was having all the mangoes I wanted to. To be frank the guardian of the grove actually pressed them upon me.

    Flattery will get you everywhere.

    One of the first lessons learnt in school is that, the majority of teachers are susceptible to the most blatant forms of flattery. Hard work helps a little, but the child at the top of the class is often held in high esteem by the teachers. This paragon of virtue, wears an, adoring smile, and always waits, till the teacher is out of hearing, before slandering her. ‘They do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble their real feelings in their double heart.’

    There is that cynical old ploy of telling a woman she looks ten years younger than her actual age. This doesn’t always work. I once told a woman (who looked fifty) that she looked attractive forty, and she hit me, over the ear, with her handbag. It turned out she was thirty. Be careful when you flatter. The results can sometimes be unexpected. Ruskin Bond wrote this piece some 40 years ago.

    I would give this book seven out of ten.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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