Memoir Reviews

‘Words From My Window’ review: Nuggets from 85 summers

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An eternal love for the hills, nostalgia and vivid sketches light up this Ruskin Bond journal

Ruskin Bond is known for his light touch, the measured word, dry humour and insights about life enmeshed with nature. His is an easy style and descriptive enough for us to feel the mountain mist. To his body of work lit up by short stories, novellas, edited anthologies, non-fiction and memoirs, he adds another fine feather, Words From My Window.

The latest output from the Bond factory of droll phrases and meditative ruminations, is actually a 20-minute read. For a tome of sparse wordage, the cover price may seem steep but this isn’t a book of only well-crafted lines, it is also about vivid water colour sketches by Dan Williams, who has previously illustrated Khaled Hosseini’s Sea Prayer.

Sensory delight

This is a minuscule literary endeavour that is also a sensory delight where paintings of places Bond called home, ranging from London to Dehradun, and especially Landour where he lives, highlight his life across 85 summers. In an earlier book of a similar vein, Words From The Hills, Bond wrote: “As this is a book of a few words and many colours, I must make this introduction a brief one. The book is really intended for your words, dear reader, and you will find that we have given you the freedom of every page, with space for you to put down your thoughts.”

The same preamble holds good even for Words From My Window, which has some blank pages where the reader could jot down ideas or may be wax lyrical about a flower. Bond starts with these lines: “This journal is an ode to my window, or rather, to all the windows I have possessed throughout my life; for without a window I doubt if I would have been half the writer that I am today.”

And then across the pages, it is quintessential Bond — there is nostalgia, the persistent heartache of losing his dad while he was still a boy and an eternal love for the hills. Some lines wring our hearts: “My first encounter with loneliness happened when I was seven, deposited by my mother in a convent boarding-school.” But he writes it without rancour and earlier he also states: “I’m a person without many regrets.”

The story of the crow

That nothing upsets him is evident when a crow steals his boiled egg and Bond reacts: “Being of a philosophical nature... I got up, closed the window, called the crow a crow, and boiled myself another egg.” It isn’t all about dewdrops and rainbows, there are wistful observations too: “We come into this world pure and innocent, but it doesn’t take long for us to be tainted and corrupted by the warped civilization that prevails around us — a world controlled by megalomaniacs.”

There is a minor quibble, though: in a reference to a repast under a pine tree, the accompanying picture has one with a broader canopy. For Bond’s fans, this book would be like a comfort pillow, while others might see it a bit indulgent.

Words From My Window; Ruskin Bond, Penguin Books, ₹499.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:36:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/words-from-my-window-review-nuggets-from-85-summers/article29788615.ece

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