‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ review: A sense of life’s diverse currents

Ruskin Bond turned 87 recently and lit up Instagram with a boisterous image of him trying to cut the cake while his adopted family watched. The impish smile was in place and just like the Himalayas he resides in, specifically Landour, there is an eternity to his huge body of writing.

The array of short stories offering glimpses into small town people, big city blues, the odd share of ghosts and all enmeshed with India’s colonial past and its chaotic present, form one part of the spectrum. At the other end there are his self-referencing journals that juxtaposes the author’s personal life, his writing pursuits and the world around him, especially nature, be it the towering hills or a wild plant warming itself in the sun.

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Deep insight

The lines coated with dry humour and infused in philosophy are all back in vogue while you leaf through Bond’s latest endeavour, It’s a Wonderful Life. The book penned over the last year while India and the globe coped with the coronavirus pandemic, is part-nostalgia and part-current-affairs as Bond tries to make sense of life’s diverse currents.


There are truisms that pop up: “No matter how smart we think we are, nature always has the last laugh.” And there are lines that are gut-wrenching but said with a practical acceptance of fate’s drastic turns: “I was only ten, and it seemed to me that God had been unreasonable in requiring my father’s services at a time when I needed him more.”

Bond always remembered one of his dad’s clinching lines — paddle your own canoe. It is an idea that he has adhered to even as the thespian continues to write every day fortified with a daily breakfast of bread, eggs and butter while even a sliced tomato is most welcome. Naughtiness is Bond’s second skin and at one point while sipping hot chocolate he quips that he would have preferred a rum!

Ideal retreat

In literary circles, there was this argument made about R.K. Narayan or Bond not taking a stance about historical churns. But in their understated ways, both Narayan and Bond while focussing on small towns, real or imaginary, drew our attention to the larger picture. In his previous books, Bond has made references to losing his school friends overnight as the Radcliffe Line was drawn and people coped with partition’s trauma.

And in his current book, Bond observes the raging virus threat. He maintained a diary during the staggered lockdowns and through that, offers us an insight into a world in flux. “I think it was Thomas Hardy who espoused the view that God created a beautiful world and then forgot all about it, leaving us to the vagaries of chance and our own ingenuity,” he writes while toying with a depressing morning reading about COVID-related deaths in India.

Bond refers to the sad plight of migrant labourers and politicians dwelling upon communal strife and as he winds down, he states: “I have always tried to achieve a prose that is easy and conversational.” It is his inherent style and for those clued to Bond’s universe, this book serves as an ideal retreat and for a new reader, this tome will offer its bounty of quaint joys, deep thought and a wry grin.

It’s a Wonderful Life; Ruskin Bond, Aleph Book Company, ₹399.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 5:52:33 PM |

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