Tag: nostalgia

Our Tryst With Bond, Ruskin Bond

“This time when we go to Dehradun,  we will drive up to Mussorie on a Saturday. I heard Ruskin Bond comes to a bookstore there every Saturday!!”. As my sister excitedly prattled on I gave a non-committal grunt in response. Driving up to Mussorie on a Saturday before a long weekend involved getting stuck in a traffic jam all the way up the mountain road. The road would be choked with cars filled with people from the plains wanting to spend the long weekend in the hills, and I had no desire to be caught up in the mess, despite the allure of meeting Ruskin Bond. I underestimated my sister’s tenacity, she organised all of us like a general and had five adults, three young boys out of the door and on the way to Mussoorie by 10 am, long before the crowds would have even crossed Modinagar. While we waited for the scheduled time, we walked up and down the mall road, talking about books, trying to identify the trees and plants growing by the road and looking out at Doon valley spread below. The sunny morning gave way to a cold, damp afternoon which saw three excited ladies, two amused gentlemen and three young boys (who alternated between complaining about being tired and demanding ice cream), under a drizzling sky in a queue outside a bookstore, waiting for the author to arrive. Soon a car drove up, a portly old gentleman, wearing a florid yellow sweater vest climbed out and shuffled his way into in the bookstore. As our turn came, he listened patiently to our gushing praises for his books. The youngest brat, when asked his name for the book signing by the author, spelt it out for the author, earning a chuckle from the author who thanked him for letting the author know the spelling of his name! As we walked out of the bookstore, clutching our precious autographed books it seemed as if we were floating on a cloud. The irritation of an early start, the tiredness of the wait and the crankiness of the boys melted as we couldn’t believe that we had met and talked to Ruskin Bond. I couldn’t help but be thankful for my sister’s determination to make sure that we could meet our favourite author, the books autographed by him taking pride of place in our bookshelves.

On the quiet drive back I went over each and every moment of that all too brief meeting. The quiet, elderly gentleman who was listening to everybody with his full attention, all the time sipping his chai from a disposable cup, was the author whom I had loved and admired for a long time. On first glance, he looked like someone’s cuddly teddy bearish granduncle, but his pen holds magic. His books are simple and yet they touch places in the heart that you don’t know. A story like “Eyes Have It” shows you don’t have to write a complicated story to drive your point, you can be ironical and yet become unforgettable in less than five-hundred words. His books brought Dehradun, Mussorie and the hills alive, nature seemed to stand still in his books. Yet, he has also written books like “The Sensualist” (deeply disturbing) and “A Flight Of Pigeons”( one of the most poignant love stories I have read). “The Blue Umbrella” showcased the simplicity of village life and yet gave a lesson against covetousness. “Fun Times With Uncle Ken” brought out the humour and the absurdness in normal day-to-day lives. “Room On the Roof” brought alive my hometown of Dehradun. After reading it I went around trying to identify the landmarks mentioned in the books, though most had vanished Dhelaram bazaar was still there, (though I couldn’t find the municipal tap) as was the Allahabad Bank building, its stateliness marred by the hawkers on the pavement outside. His description of the tikki-wallah in the book as “the fleshy God of tikki’s” has stuck with me all these years and I hear myself repeating it mentally whenever I go to any tikkiwallah in Dehradun.

Some might wonder why he, as an author stands out, especially to people from Dehradun. Why we spent more than seven hours in Mussoorie, planned the whole visit like a battle just for a five-minute book signing with him. It might be because he is one of ours, a local boy who left and yet, came back as he couldn’t survive without the mountains. He, like us, felt that the hills were his home, how much ever progress might degrade them, the hills still had our beating hearts. His books and stories evoke a time gone by when Dehra was still green and unpolluted when life was simple enough that you could just sit and watch the nature blooming around you. There is a quiet symbiosis of man and nature in his books.

And I think that’s the reason why we were so excited to see him, he is familiar to us, through his books he brings back the Dehra we had all once loved!

Rain in the hills

It is raining cats and dogs(as the popular saying goes)in Dehradun since afternoon. As I am writing this sentence there is a loud, long grumble of thunder from the clouds and rain is drumming down on the roof making my mother increase the volume of her Television as her favorite serial comes on. The boys have missed their daily game of cricket, making them cranky. I, on the other hand, have been in a pensive mood.

(picture from unsplash.com Abhidev Vaishnav)

The sounds of thunder and the rain pattering down, the whole atmosphere is making me nostalgic for my grandparents home where I grew up. I miss my bed next to the window, where I would sit with my back resting on the wall  ( it used to be heaven in winters, snuggled in the razai). The sound of the dripping raindrops from the leaves of the frangipani tree of our neighbor. I miss the dampness of my grandmother’s room, the green of the moss growing on the mango and litchi tree.  Hating to walk under the same trees as the raindrops from the leaves would splash on you invariably getting in the collar of the school uniform making it highly uncomfortable. Finding mushrooms sprouting on the trunks and branches of the litchi tree and marveling on their toadstool shapes. Cleaning the water off from the cement seat on the roof, so that I could study outdoors and also look at the sunset.  All the creepy crawlies would come wriggling out making us avoid the kitchen garden patch, remembering to close the screen door else the rain insects would come in drawn by the light, making us swat them with rolled up newspapers. Lying awake after the lights were switched off, hearing the crickets and the jhingoors, trying to watch the jugnus flit by in the dark garden. If perchance there was a thunderstorm in the night, I would spend half the night awake, watching the zig zagging shapes of the lightning fascinated by it, a fascination that I still have. Not understanding at the time how powerful God is, to create something so beautiful and yet so awe inspiring. The alacrity of the electricity department of Dehradun in switching off the power at a single rumble from the clouds. The days when we reached sopping wet to school despite the raincoats, a hazard of going to school on the bicycle, packing our school bag with an extra layer of plastic to protect the precious books. The countless days when it used to alternately drizzle, rain and pour intermittently till you would long for the sun to come out. The brilliant blue of the sky contrasting with the white fluffiness of the clouds when the sun would finally shine; the mountains a dark, sharply etched silhouette against the horizon, the trees, a luxuriant green.

People ask me why I come to India during the rains, I reply that I come because of the rains.While most of us agree that Dehradun is no longer the sleepy town of the nineties, one thing which is still familiar is the rain. Monsoon was and still is a magical time in Dehradun. The world turns green with new growth and moss (most tenacious here, found all over, including the outer walls of the houses). It is damp, it is musty but it is very very familiar. As familiar as the fragrance of adraki chai and crispness of pakoras. It makes me long to be that young girl again, with the bed by the window, whose only worry was to reach school with dry shoes and dry books.