Short Story Reads: A Bond with the Mountains by Ruskin Bond

It is one thing to dream of living a simple, content life in the mountains. But to live the life one writes about, especially of a lifetime spent in deep communion with nature, well, that is something rare and profound. 

A Bond with the Mountains is a 1998 slim collection of stories, poems and thoughts by Landour’s famous resident writer

But for the inevitable melancholic tragedy of No Room for a Leopard, the remarkable bonding of the young and old in A Bouquet of Love, nothing overtly dramatic occurs in this collection. 

Instead the pages are fragrant with Bond’s deep bond (yes, Bond’s bond) with all things green, flowering, chirping, flowing and flourishing. 

After all Ruskin Bond chose the mountains instead of the (more commercially viable option for a struggling freelance writer) plains, a choice that has defined his writing life and the view outside the window. 

Simple things: A New Flower is about a nine-year-old and the writer raving over a newly blossomed yet unknown flower. 

How man’s drive for speed, comfort and machinery leaves jungle creatures vulnerable to his endless march is gently revealed in the thrilling Dragon in the Tunnel

No Room for a Leopard is the bullet-pierced heart of this collection, for the impending tragedy of the brutality that follows the arrival of man. 

The interpersed poems feel like the sway of branches to the evening breeze. The lines that particularly stand out in Living with Mountains and in a way sums up Ruskin Bond’s life journey go: 

Once you have lived with mountains, / Under the benedictory pines / And deodars, near stars / And a brighter moon, / With wood smoke and mist, / Sweet smell of grass, dew lines / On spider-spun, sun-kissed / Buttercup and vine; / Once you have lived with these / Blessed God’s favourite then, / You will return, / You will come back / To touch the trees and grass, / And climb once more the windswept mountain pass. 

This is not an utterly epic, absolutely unexpected collection, but of an elderly narrator living the long sunset of his life in quiet glee. What is dear to him splashes and thrives in these pages. 

Stories like The GlacierMy Tall Green Friends, To the River, A Mountain Stream, Tenacity of Mountain Water and Mother Hill are notes from the narrator’s journal, counting his blessings and humming his gratitude to mountain life. 

The cynics may grumble that Bond could have thrived in writing more complex and layered tales, that he mostly goes semi-autobiographical, and seldom dwells on human anguish and darkness. Apart from not believing in ghosts but seeing them all the time, as he has often said cheekily. 

The heartfelt descriptions of natural beauty is what makes Bond’s writing appealing, he’s just being himself. Like Robert Frost, Ruskin Bond chose the less travelled path and behold! That has made all the difference. 

Endnote: A mingling of childhood life, uphill hikes, youth, ice cold stream baths, fireside tales, friendship and radiance, A Bond with the Mountains is about brief, concise pleasures, on the melodious importance of little things, something we city denizens have long forgotten and buried deep in our hearts.       

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)                 

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