Thursday, August 11, 2016

DELHI IS NOT FAR BY RUSKIN BOND: A Love Story without Losses

Image Courtesy: Penguin
“…and I know that this one lifetime, however long, cannot satisfy my heart” (111).
__ Ruskin Bond

The Commentator says;
When it’s about love, some believe it’s natural to make mistakes. The truth is ‘mistakes’ and ‘love’ do not coexist. Mistakes are not love. Love is not a mistake. Before the book review, let me recount to you a love story flew by my life a couple of months back. As some of you know, I love blogging. As some others of you are well aware, more than blogging, I love the experience of writing. Blog or my other publishing ventures, this love for writing is at the core of it all. A couple of months before, I had thought of writing a review of the book Delhi is Not Far by Ruskin Bond, author of The Lamp is Lit. Opening a word document, I wrote the title of the book with the author’s name as a ‘clever’ appendage. Then I kept it to gather some inspiration and relevance. Then I forgot. To be more precise, I pushed the priority to love to another rather unimportant spot and, for the time being, foregrounded some other necessities. Dry as they may be, these necessities were significant to fortify the walls of my small personal world.

Then came a day when my own spirit knocked on a tiny window on that wall. It was time to push old priorities back into position. I opened a word document. Decided to write on Delhi is Not Far. Wrote a title, this time a better one and hit the shortcut keys on the keyboard to save the document in the same folder I save them always. The computer said the file named the book title already existed.
Image Courtesy: Google

Delhi is Not Far is a novella about two men who fell in love with a woman in a rural small town in India. The story takes place in Pipal Nagar, an imaginary small town in Northern India. The protagonist of this novella is a male writer, a convenient alter ego of the author himself perhaps. His name is Arun, a writer of B Grade crime novels in Urdu language eking out a living in Pipal Nagar.  Arun tries his hand on various jobs in Pipal Nagar, jobs that only a small town could offer like an attempt at selling vegetables. Those who have read The Lamp is Lit may find an element of autobiography in this action. Apparently, Ruskin Bond himself, as a young man, tried vegetable business and failed.

Arun’s companion in Delhi is Not Far is Suraj. Their common interests are Kamala, a prostitute and their liberating bicycle rides out of Pipal Nagar to the green, nostalgic countryside. Going to Delhi, the nation’s capital and becoming successful is the motive that guides Arun, Suraj, Deep Chand, the barber, etc.

The title, Delhi is Not Far perhaps demonstrates the sense of fulfillment that these characters want to achieve once they undertake the quintessential journey to Delhi, the land of their opportunities. It also suggests a sense of distance. Distance is the major ingredient of nostalgia, one of Ruskin Bond’s most common themes.

Ruskin Bond’s parents were British. They came to India as part of the colonial mission. When the empire withdrew, Bond’s parents and relatives, (most of them) went with the Queen. He stayed, however, along with some of his relatives in Dehra Dun. After his education he worked in Channel Islands in the U.K, where he worked for two years and also started honing his writing craft. The location helped emblaze his longing for India. The commentator feels that it was perhaps this experience of going away that Imbued Bond’s style with his classic nostalgia or longing for the good old days of the past.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
Now, as I mentioned earlier, the thing we love would get to us. It’s hard for someone to get away from true love. The Commentator thinks that the measure of true love is the ‘pull’ one feels at the strings of the heart. Arun, finally, travels to Delhi, leaving behind his friend and Kamala. The story is wonderful as it touches deeper layers of one’s psyche.

In this story that the Commentator thinks is a love story, no one loses. It’s a deeper understanding of the human condition and its magnificence that envelops the ending of the story. Delhi is Not Far rekindled my love for rural life and eye for elements that spell originality in the Indian context. Ruskin Bond’s narrative style is uniquely Indian and lovably universal.
               
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