Revel in the tales only Bond can tell. From ghosts and prets to trees and flowers, he has a story about all of them.
Ruskin Bond brings to mind vivid images of Dehra Dun. You do not have to be there to know what is happening as he transports you with his words.
A dozen of them
A short, sweet book aptly titled Stories Short and Sweet has a dozen tales that tell of different aspects of the hill station. Endearing and entertaining, these stories take you to a world hitherto forgotten. The anthology begins with “Those Three Bears”, where bears come searching for pumpkin or rampage around a cornfield and sometimes even play hide and seek on trees.
“The Coral Tree” written in evocative prose juxtaposes the colour of the flowers with that of the ground comparing brilliance with mundane. The tale of ‘Gazi Saheb’ of the Sunderbans and his immense magical powers is gripping.
“A Thief’s Story” is touching, reminiscent of “The Bishop’s Candlesticks”. One story that is pertinent to our times is “When Trees Walked”. A little boy sits with his grandfather on the verandah and notices the tendril of a creeping vine moving silently forward towards his grandfather until finally it is touching his feet. But the boy does not find it surprising because everybody and everything loved to be near his grandfather. His grandfather explains to him the need for trees and he says, “The thought of a world without trees became a sort of nightmare to me and I helped Grandfather in his tree-planting with greater enthusiasm.” At the end of the story one realises the importance of his grandfather’s words.
“A Bouquet of Love” is a heartrending story of loneliness, friendship and nature. One reading of this story and Miss Mackenzie will forever remain in your memory. “The White Pigeon” is eerie and could send shivers down your back and if ever you visit the graveyard in Dehra Dun look out for a pigeon with a crimson stain on its white breast. “A Pret in the House” is hilarious and only Bond can bring out the funny side of something as terrible as a pret. Bond has a great penchant for the supernatural and “The Overcoat” is just that. Subtle yet haunting you do not realise what is happening until the end.
Three more stories “The Tunnel”, “The Snake Charmer’s Daughter” and “The Wild Fruit” are equally enchanting.
Ultimately it is the inimitable style of Bond that makes you want to turn the page. Never a dull moment and never a mood or scene repeated. An amazing feat considering his canvas is just Dehra Dun.
Stories Short and Sweet by Ruskin Bond, Puffin, Rs. 150