Whispers in the dark – A book of spooks by Ruskin Bond

What would you do if you see a ghostly figure sleeping besides your bed? Will your sweat out with fear or scream out? In such unpredictable paranormal experiences, the faint hearted can’t even scream. From ‘The Excorcist’ to the recent scary flick – The Conjuring & Annabelle, fear has taken new forms in movies. ‘Whispers in the dark’ is a fresh new compilation of spooky stories that you will change your perception towards the theory of paranormal activities. After ‘Face in the dark and other hauntings’, Ruskin Bond has penned down new spooky stories that will give you scary goosebumps.

The short stories in this spooky collection have supernatural and scary settings, but they are not mind disturbing. Most of Ruskin Bond’s stories have touch of nostalgia and romance to it. ‘The Wilson’s Bridge’ and ‘Listen to the wind’ have the theme of romance in this spooky collection. Among all the short stories, ‘A dreadful gurgle’ is one of my favorites. In this story, the author encounters a ghostly figure sleeping besides his bed. ‘A face in the dark’, ‘The late night show’, ‘Susanna’s seven husbands’, ‘A traveller’s tale’, ‘The overcoat’ and ‘The Mango tope’ are really thrilling with a shocking twist in the end. The 35 stories in this spooky collection are unique from one another. Is there any afterlife element existing in this world? Do our departed loved ones really connect with us? These queries about supernatural elements are a subject of discussion. In one of his short stories, Ruskin Bond recounts his experience of seeing the apparition of his late father – Aubrey Bond.

Ruskin Bond has also penned ‘A face in the dark and other hauntings’ a spooky collection of ghost stories

If you love spooky stories, do check out this anthology of supernatural theme by Ruskin Bond. I bet after reading this stories, you will definitely check your bed sheet before sleeping. Who knows how and when a ghost may sneak in your bed.

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In search of a muse

‘Fill the paper with breathings of your heart’ – Quote

Without a muse, an artist is nothing. Neither he can paint a picture on a canvas nor can he pour words on his paper. I never believed in theories of muse until I faced the creative blockage in my mind known as writer’s block. Writer’s block is a type of creative blockage that paralyzes our creativity. Neither coffee nor music helped me to restore back my writing prowess. While gazing through some images on Pinterest, I happened to see the pic of actress Anne Hathaway from Hollywood movie – Becoming Jane. Actress Anne Hathaway played the role of author Jane Austen in the movie. The picture showed Anne holding a pen and paper. The picture had a positive impact on my mind. It was like a writing prompt for me. I felt like my mind was undergoing a rebooting phase. I immediately went to my writing table and starting tapping my hands on my keyboard. Within 2 hours I wrote an article and published it on WordPress blogging platform. It was sense of accomplishment for me. My mind was oozing with creativity. Was the creative blockage an excuse to stay away from writing or was I really facing writers’ block? Often times, we are so much enthusiastic to pen down our thoughts that we end up writing nothing. Ideas are like uninvited guests. They arrive anytime – while catching a bus, talking to a friend or while having a bath. Only the mind needs to be alert to welcome your creative guests.

Anna hathaway portrayed Jane Austen in 2007 movie – Becoming jane. She is also my current muse for this story

Do muses play a significant role in arousing ideas? Yes!! From William Shakespeare, Raja Ravi Verma, Leonardo Da Vinci to Ernest Hemingway, Rabindranath Tagore, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, John Keats and Ruskin Bond, every creative genius had a muse to keep them inspired. It is been said that a young woman named Sugandha Bai was the muse of painter Raja Ravi Verma. Raja Ravi Verma used her as his model for several of his paintings. Whether Sugandha Bai was a real life person or a fictional character from Ranjit Desai’s biography on Raja Ravi Verma, this speculation has always been a subject of debate.

In Hollywood movie – Shakespeare in Love, William Shakespeare was shown having a muse who inspired him to write Romeo and Juliet. Though the movie was a fictional take on Shakespeare, there is no denying that creative people always in search of muse.

Several of John Keats’ poems were dedicated to his sweet heart Fanny Brawne. The 2007 biopic – Becoming Jane was based on life of Jane Austen and her short lived romance with Thomas Lefroy. Though the characters of Jane Austen were happy married in her books, Jane Austen was deprived of true love and wedding. She remained alone all her life. The character Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice was based on her real life love – Thomas Lefroy. Lefroy was muse of Austen. Love is greatest inspiration of all and artists always find creativity in their muses. Ruskin Bond’s greatest inspiration was a young married woman with whom he had a short lived crush. The young married woman was mentioned in the Ruskin Bond’s debut book – The Room on the roof. Even Tagore’s novels and poems were dedicated to his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi who inspired him to write.

Even the experiences in our life are muse for us. Playwright J.M.Barrie created the popular character ‘Peter Pan’ based on his personal experiences. The Hollywood movie – Finding Neverland was based on playwright J.M.Barrie and the experiences that inspired him to write Peter Pan. Really!! Without a muse, an artist is incomplete.

Finding Neverland is based on playwright J.M.Barrie

Hadn’t I seen the pic of Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, I wouldn’t have been bursting with creativity. All thanks to actress Anne Hathaway for becoming my muse to write this article. It is all God’s plan to drop ideas in our mind. He creates muses, ideas and inspirations. Oh God!! Please keep me blessed with beautiful muses.

Jane Austen’s greatest inspiration was her love. The role of Jane Austen was played by Anne hathaway

As for now, this article on muse is ready. It’s time for my muse Anne Hathaway to take leave. Now my hunt for next muse is on…..Who will be my next muse? Only time and my upcoming stories will tell.

Do you believe in this concept called muse? Do drop your comments. Let me know who inspired you to create your masterpiece.

The unforgettable characters from Ruskin Bond’s books

Only few authors have the knack to create memorable characters in a full length novella or an unforgettable short story. Mark Twain, R.K.Narayan and Ruskin Bond belong to that league. Ruskin Bond’s short stories have a flavor of nostalgia that lingers in heart and mind of readers. The characters in the Bond’s short stories are not heroic soldiers, undercover cops, beautiful belle or damsels in distress.

They are common masses we see in day today life. There is extraordinariness in these ordinary characters created by Bond. These unforgettable characters from Ruskin’s short stories will tug your heart when you read about their struggle. Let’s see what is so special about these unforgettable characters created by Ruskin Bond.

1) Hassan the wrestler –

‘Fame has but a fleeting hold
On the reins in our fast paced society
So many of our yesterday’s heroes crumble’

Among all the short stories, ‘The Garlands on his brow’ is my favorite short story. Here Ruskin Bond brings you closer to the pain of a forgotten wrestler from Dehra. In this short story Bond reminiscences an ageing wrestler Hassan who once a hero and a role model for the Dehra people. His brawns and brain had knocked down many strong wrestlers to the floor. During his school days, little Ruskin used to visit the akharas (wrestling grounds) to see the dare devilry wrestling matches of his idol Hassan. Hassan’s masculinity attracts several young women including a Maharani. The Maharani takes a fascination for Hassan and recruits him as her personal bodyguard. A momentary attraction towards a woman spells doom for Hassan. After the death of Maharani, Hassan is reduced to a forgotten hero who makes his ends meet by giving wrestling lessons to young kids. In the climax, the old wrestler is found dead on the streets of Dehra. It is so disheartening that a yester year hero is reduced to poverty and anonymity in the fast paced world. This short story reminded me of Yash Raj Films’ movie – Sultan which revolves around a wrestler who bounces back after losing his glory. I personally feel that this short story should be made into a TV serial or a full length movie featuring Salman Khan as the ageing wrestler Hassan. Really nothing lasts forever in the world, not even the success and glamour.

2) The girl on the train – In the short story ‘The Eyes have it’, Ruskin Bond introduces us to two strangers on the train. The blind narrator in this story meets a girl who has boarded the train to go Saharanpur. Here the narrator strikes a joyful conversation with the lonely girl to give her company till her destination arrives. He describes about the beauty of Dehradun to her. The conversation breaks the ice between them and they form a good bond. Later the girl bids farewell to the narrator. Here the narrator is joined again by a new passenger. In the climax the narrator discovers that the young girl on the train was actually blind. What a surprising climax!! We are so blinded by our preconceptions that we fail to observe people and surroundings around us. We see the world according to our nature. Ironically the world is very different from our observation and thinking. The blind strangers reminded me of Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam from movie Kaabil. They played the roles of a blind couple in the movie. This short story should be adapted for a TV episode featuring Yami and Hrithik as the blind passengers on the train.

3) The Kite maker – The skies are deprived of kites flying high to touch the clouds. Today skyscrapers, buildings, Shopping malls and Industrial complexes have reduced the space for outdoor games. Today there are neither the kids flying the kites nor there is any ample space for kite flying activities. In the short story ‘The Kitemaker’, we sympathize with the melancholy of a forgotten kite maker. Mehmood, a popular kite maker of pre-independence era recounts his moments of glory when he was praised and respected by the rich Nawab and the masses of his times. He reminiscences creating a giant sized Kite for the Nawab and the thrill of launching the kite in the sky. With changing times and advent of technology, there is no time left for trivial things like kite. People have no time left for activities like kite flying.
In the end, Mehmood the kite maker breathes his last, remembering the best years of his lives and his fondness for Kite making.

4) The girl at Deoli station – ‘The night train at Deoli’ is counted as one of the best short stories written by Ruskin Bond. This short story introduced me to the nostalgic world of Ruskin Bond. Ruskin Bond has fondness for train traveling and here too the backdrop of the story is a railway station. The Deoli station is not like the crowded stations of Mumbai. It is a very melancholic station where you won’t find any crowd. Except for a station master office and a tea stall, the station doesn’t have any passengers hanging around the place. The strange thing about the Deoli station is that the trains passing through the station halt only for 10 minutes. There is neither any passenger boarding or getting down to this station. The author connects with a basket selling girl on the station. He is smitten to her innocence in the very first glance. He not only buys baskets from her, but also promises to meet her again. Ironically when he returns to meet her again at Deoli, the girl is nowhere in the sight. He enquires with the station master and tea stall owner but fails to know about her whereabouts. Whenever the train passes towards Deoli station, the author has a faint hope to bond back with the basket selling girl.

5) Ruskin Bond’s father ‘Aubrey Bond’ – Ruskin Bond has mentioned about his father ‘Aubrey Bond’ in many of his short stories including the full length novel – Looking for the rainbow: My years with Daddy. For Ruskin Bond, his father was not just a parent, but also a companion, a compassionate friend who cared for his child till the last breath of his life. When I read about Ruskin Bond’s father in the short stories and full length memoir, I had a curiosity to see the photograph of Aubrey Bond. Sadly, there is no photograph of Aubrey Bond published on web. After the divorce of Ruskin Bond’s parents, little Ruskin’s responsibility of upbringing was taken by his dad. An RAF officer by profession, Aubrey Bond took his child under his care.

A snapshot from Ruskin Bond’s memoir – Looking for the rainbow

In Delhi, little Ruskin spent the best years of his life with his father – collecting stamps, relishing on ice creams, watching cinemas and visiting historical sites. This happiness was short lived for little Ruskin. The malarial attack and jaundice took a toll on his father’s health and Ruskin was deprived of fatherly love during his childhood. In one of the short stories ‘The Vision’ Ruskin meets the ghostly form of his father who guides him even in his darkest hours. In an interview Ruskin Bond had expressed a wish that actor Shahid Kapoor resembled a bit like him and should definitely portray Ruskin in his official biopic. Hope someday if a movie is made on Ruskin Bond’s book – Looking for the rainbow I personally feel that Hollywood actors – James Mardsen, Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumbercatch should play the role of Ruskin Bond’s father.

The girl Binya was the popular fictional character from Ruskin Bond’s short story – The Blue Umbrella

6) Rusty – Rusty is the alter-ego of Ruskin Bond, an imaginary boy sprung from the imagination of the writer. The incidents happening in the life of Rusty are based on childhood days of Ruskin Bond. ‘Room on the roof’ was the debut novel of Ruskin Bond when he was just 17 years old. Through ‘Room on the roof’, Rusty became a popular fictional character and was read and adored by readers worldwide. The Rusty series was highly popular among the young readers. Surprisingly Rusty was more popular before Harry Potter books hit the stores. Through Rusty, Ruskin Bond captured the imagination of young boys.

Room on the roof is the first book in Rusty Series

Apart from these characters, Ruskin created several unforgettable characters like Uncle Ken, Binya, Sita, Madhu, Daljit, Somi and Ranbir. Some fictional characters were based on his real life friends and some were created out of imagination. Nevertheless, these characters have succeeded to find a place in my heart. I am hoping to include some of other Ruskin Bond’s characters in my upcoming article very soon.

The Mill on the floss – A classic masterpiece by George Eliot

‘If life had no love in it, what else was there for Maggie?’ – Excerpt from the book

This book ‘The Mill on the floss’ was on my wish list for a long time. Somewhere or other, I never got my time to read this literary masterpiece by Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot was her pen name). In Victorian era, female authors were never given the expected encouragement, scope and success compared to the male writers. Thus, Mary Ann Evans adopted a masculine name for her literary identity. Like Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot paints an intense picture of emotions in her maiden novel – The Mill on the floss. Especially the female protagonist Maggie Tulliver is a strong character in the book that overshadows the male protagonist – Tom Tulliver.

The story revolves around a prosperous and wealthy Tulliver Family who own a flourishing mill near the river floss. Mr. and Mrs Tulliver are blessed with two kids – Tom and Maggie. Tom and Maggie are completely contrasted in nature. While Tom is a reserved boy, Maggie is reckless like an untamed mare. Maggie adores and worships her brother so much that sometimes she ends hurting him. The happiness of Tulliver family comes to an end when a cunning lawyer Mr. Wakem usurps all the property of Tulliver by wrong means. Mr. Tulliver even loses his mill to the cunning Wakem. By a strange irony, Philip, the son of Wakem and Maggie fall in love with each other.Though Tom separates Maggie from Philip, he loses the love of his sister. What happens later is a sequence of tragic events that determine the fate of Tulliver Family and robs the happiness of Tulliver Family.

What appealed me in this book was the strong characterization. Maggie Tulliver is the main protagonist around whom the whole story revolves. She is wild, fierce like a gypsy girl who is adored by father but criticized by her mother. On the other hand, Tom is a reserved boy who works hard to clear off the debts incurred on his family.

Author George Eliot has also sketched out a strong character in Mr. Tulliver who imbibes the values of integrity, honesty, morality in his children. ‘The Mill on the floss’ is one novel that every parent should read. The climax of the book is very tragic. Unfortunately, Maggie is deprived of love she always deserved for. After reading the adapted version of ‘The Mill on the floss’, I am keen to read the full length version. I am also looking forward to other writing works of George Eliot – Adam Bede and Silas Marner.

If you enjoyed reading intense emotional novels like ‘Wuthering heights’ , then ‘The Mill on the floss’ is definitely worth the read.