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.

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Rusty Runs Away – A nostalgic novella by Ruskin Bond

Nestled in the vicinity of Dehra’s snow mountains is the residence of Rusty, a melancholic dreamer who aspires to live life on his own terms. Through Rusty, Author Ruskin Bond has recounted his own boyhood days in Dehra, Shimla and Mussoorie. ‘Rusty Runs away’ is story of every kid who is deprived of parental love and craves for a heartfelt tenderness. The incidents happening in the memoir – Rusty Runs Away will tug your heart and compel to go back to your boyhood days. Have you every bunked school to visit the cities, relish on street side food and watch cinema? This is one childhood fantasy every kid has craved to and fulfilled by playing rookie. I have done it countless times and got a good thrashing from my parents.

There is a ‘Rusty’ hidden in every person who wants to break free from his daily chores and hectic responsibilities. Today we are so entrapped in web of fake desires, expectations that we have stopped living the real life we aspired for. We are no less than a money earning robot. The nostalgic episodes in this book will encourage you to pursue your dreams even in the toughest times. The most interesting episode in the novel is the escape of Rusty and his friend Daljit from their boarding school – Arundel. This escape adventure takes them on interesting locations till they finally reach the sea port only to face delay. Read this to personally experience the journey that is a roller coaster ride of happiness, joy, exploration and imagination.

The other story in this memoir is the friendship between Rusty and Omar which blossoms in Shimla. Set during the backdrop of pre-independence Rusty and Omar strike a bond and enjoy the best moments of friendship – playing hockey, discovering tunnels and sharing their emotions. Like Rusty, even Omar is an orphan. The heart breaking partition tears apart their partnership and Omar has to leave India. After 18 years, Rusty receives the news that Omar has died in air crash during the Indo-Pak War of 1972. This is one of my favorite chapters in this novel. If you have disconnected from your long lost colleague then you will definitely relate to this story of Rusty and Omar.

The most nostalgic episode in this novel is the friendship of Rusty with Somi, Ranbir and Suri who help him to break free from the cage of melancholia and enjoy the life to the fullest. Rusty not only enjoys food on road side stalls, but also discovers the color of happiness by celebrating Holi with his friends. This friendship gives Rusty the courage to rebel against his tyrant guardian. Rusty not only rebels, but also thrashes his guardian black and blue, putting an end to the strict tyranny imposed on him.

‘Rusty Runs Away’ is celebration of friendship, togetherness, love, freedom and nostalgia. This memoir is one of the best works of Ruskin Bond which will touch your heart’s string. The scenic descriptions, travelogues will inspire you to take a trip to your favorite destination. As a social human being, we are so concerned about people that we suppress the ‘real person’ in us. We care about other’s opinions but never heed to the inner voice of our conscious. I hope that after reading this book – Rusty Runs Away, you will definitely look out for your inner self.

Bonding with Ruskin

Today when I gaze at the blue sky, I notice emptiness in it. There are no longer any kites soaring high to touch the clouds. Even the pond is deprived of paper boats that once floated in the monsoon water. Sky scrapers, competitive jobs, high speed cars, industrial complexes and electronic accessories have taken a toll on life. In the midst of these uncertainties, author Ruskin Bond’s books still give a hope that life hasn’t lost its charm. The dark clouds of sorrow can never overshadow a hopeful sun in the sky. I withdrew myself from the 9 to 7 job that offered nothing but resentment, disappointment and disheartening events. I had totally lost my hope in this heartless city until a book came as a blessing in my life. It was an anthology of nostalgic stories and travelogues, giving me a glimpse of mountain life.

‘Night train at deoli and other stories’ by Ruskin Bond opened the window of happiness in my life which was locked due to my pessimistic attitude. I have realized that I always suppressed my inner self (my conscience) and gave more importance to friends, colleagues and mean people. The childhood innocence within me was lost somewhere and I was left alone in the crowd. Ruskin Bond’s books helped me to reconnect with my inner self. Life has never been the same after soaking in nostalgia offered by this short collection of Ruskin Bond.

‘Room on the roof’ was the first published book by Ruskin Bond

‘When the war is over, a butterfly will still be beautiful’ – excerpt from Ruskin Bond memoir ‘Rusty Runs away’

Through his novellas, short story collections, travelogues, Ruskin Bond gives you a glimpse of his memoirs in Landour, Shimla, Dehra, Mussoorie and Shamli. Be it a spooky anthology, love stories or nostalgic episodes, Ruskin Bond brings you closer to Mother Nature. Happiness is not drinking a creamy coffee in Café Coffee day, but relishing on a small tea stall in a hill station. The social networks have disconnected us from our real friends who helped us in thick and thin times.

Through his memoirs – Rusty series (Rusty is alter ego of Ruskin Bond), Bond takes readers a trip down the memory lane where he recounts the days he spent with his friends, grandparents, uncle and his late father. Though the stories may sound simple, but there is a strong philosophy hidden in every story. Wish I had a time machine so that I could bring back the moments which are now preserved in form of memories. I want to start life on a new note where I can live the life to the fullest, enjoying a million years in a 24 hours day.

When you read Ruskin Bond Books, you get a feel that time has slowed down and you have lived 25 hours in a day, relishing every moment of the story that is connected to you. Such is the power of Ruskin Bond’s writings.

After Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Ruskin Bond is one such author whose writings has a strong sense of nostalgia. It’s time for me to catch a train to mountains and connect with serenity. If you value your happy old times, do read books by Ruskin Bond. They are really worth your time.

The Blue Umbrella – A Short Story By Ruskin Bond

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“Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again” – Louisa May Alcott

Very few books have that charisma that appeal to both kids and grownups and Ruskin Bond’s short story – The Blue Umbrella is one of them. The above quote holds a special place in my heart because we like to read books where we love to relate ourselves. This short story – The Blue Umbrella belongs to that category, a memorable story whose magic will keep on enchanting the readers for generations. Published in 1980, this short story is written by Ruskin Bond whose stories are more connected to hilly areas like Himachal Pradesh. The premise of this story is set in a small village of Himachal Pradesh where a poor little girl named Binya is smitten to a beautiful blue umbrella owned by a rich family. She trades off her leopard claw necklace for the captivating blue umbrella. From that moment, the blue umbrella becomes Binya’s rich possession.

Still from the comic book The Blue Umbrella

Still from the comic book The Blue Umbrella

Slowly the umbrella becomes a center of attention among the people living in the village. Everyone in the village craves to own that umbrella. Especially Ram Bharose, a shopkeeper has his eyes set on the blue umbrella. He even requests Binya to sell her blue umbrella to him for a fair amount. But Binya refuses to part away with her prized valuable. Realizing that his master Ram Bharose won’t be able to gain the umbrella, his servant Rajaram plans to steal the umbrella for his master. But while stealing the umbrella, Rajaram is caught red-handed by Binya’s brother. When everyone in the village comes to know about Ram Bharose’s greedy intention of owning Binya’s umbrella, Ram Bharose is neglected by everyone in village. Later Binya realizes that she shouldn’t flaunt her umbrella to make Ram Bharose sad. Finally Binya happily parts away with her blue umbrella by giving it to Ram Bharose. Now everyone in the village borrows the blue umbrella from Ram Bharose for time being. Though Binya is sad for parting with her umbrella, she is glad that she has brought a smile of happiness on someone’s face.This short story was made into a motion picture in 2005 and was adapted as a comic story in Amar Chitra Katha.

Author Ruskin Bond

Author Ruskin Bond

I recently read this short story of Ruskin Bond and was so mesmerized by its simplicity that I couldn’t wait to share this story on my blog. This story is about joy of giving and sharing happiness even in sad moments. Though my writings can’t match the magic of Ruskin Bond’s words, I have made a small attempt to spread this story to all my readers, young and old. I hope that once you have read this post, you will definitely buy the original copy of “Blue Umbrella” written by Ruskin Bond.

Happy Reading
Prashant Badiger