Fiction Reads: Angry River by Ruskin Bond

Another wisp of a book by Ruskin Bond, Angry River is a fine example of children’s literature. The yarn is never overwhelming, the main characters are few.You should get to the end of the tale in little over an hour.

Having lost her mother early and with her father working in the city, Sita is a little girl who lives with her grandparents on a small island in the middle of a river. She spends her time taking care of her ailing grandmother. Sita can’t go to school, because there is ‘too much to do’ on the island. The grandfather’s character has shades of Ernest Hemingway’s similarly brief The Old Man and the Sea.

It was an old tree, and an old man sat beneath it.

He was mending a fishing-net. He had fished in the river for ten years, and he was a good fisherman. He knew where to find the slim silver Chilwa fish and the big beautiful Mahseer and the long moustached Singhara; he knew where the river was deep and where it was shallow; he knew which baits to use – which fish liked worms and which like gram.

The trio live in a mud hut with a sole peepul tree, a couple of goats and hens for company. As things turn out, the old lady needs to be taken to the city for medical treatment. Used to living alone on the island, Sita watches her grandfather’s boat dwarfing away from view, carrying her grandmother and two goats. The rain is already causing the water level to rise, and what follows as a consequence forms the rest of the book.

Though Sita and the river are the main protagonists of this novella, the enigmatic boy Krishan is an allegoric addition to the water-rising proceedings. A riveting little tale on nature’s fury, human vulnerability and the anonymity of the poor.     

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

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