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.
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.
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.
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.