“Journey Down the Years” – A Ruskin Bond Book
When we think about the most loved Indian authors, Ruskin Bond’s name appears among the top favourites. He is loved by readers of all ages across the world. I am a fan of his writing too.
For me, the best thing about this celebrated author is the inherent simplicity of his writing. There is a very endearing quality in Ruskin Bond’s books that makes readers fall in love with them.
He is an Indian author of British descent. His love for India is another remarkable quality that shines in his works. Whether you read Ruskin Bond’s stories or books, most of them throb with his delight in India.
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading his ‘Journey Down the Years.’ The name of the book may suggest that it is Ruskin Bond’s biography. Well, he does relate his personal experiences in it, but it is not Ruskin Bond’s autobiography or biography.
Journey Down the Years is a unique book. One may say it contains his essays related to Nature. But the word ‘essay’ sounds too dull to be used for the scintillating writing I found in this book.
Its various chapters rather feel like fond remembrances of a benevolent old man who can still get as excited as a child by the little joys that Nature springs.
Journey Down the Years is a remarkable book in more ways than one. Without being a biography, this book can give you a delicious taste of this great writer’s personality and genius. It gives glimpses of the author’s childhood and life experiences. You will find many interesting facts about Ruskin Bond in it. In this post, I’d try to show you the highlights that made this Ruskin Bond book special for me.
Journey Down the Year – Highlights
Disclaimer: Although I wanted to talk about this book in my own words, I couldn’t overcome the temptation of using quotation after quotation from its pages. But you won’t mind it, I’m sure.
Love of Nature:
If you read only one chapter of this book, one thing about Ruskin Bond will become crystal clear to you. This literary master adores Nature! Flowers, plants, trees, birds, sun, wind, and water are his best friends. And he loves them all. He seeks them, invites them into his home, and surrounds himself with them.
Just look at the quotes given below, you’d know what I mean:
“I have been looking for you all these years,’ said the wind, as it came rushing up the hillside to take me in its arms and hold me in its loving embrace. It tousled my hair, kissed me on the lips and cheeks, fling my scarf away, and was so overpowering that I had to run home and lock the door against it. And then it was at the windows, doing its best to get in. ‘Let me in, let me in!’ it shouted. Then the rain came and quelled it, and it went away sulking but promising to be back…”
“…knew that as long as I connected, in both a physical and mystical way, with the natural world— sea, sun, earth, moon and stars— I would never feel lonely upon this planet.”
“One of my greatest pleasures is to walk beneath an avenue of neem trees after a shower of rain. As the fallen berries are crushed underfoot they give out a sharp heady fragrance, which I find exhilarating.”
Ruskin Bond is an explorer of Nature. He feels wretched when he cannot find flowers in bloom. He hastens towards hills with the urgency of a long-parted lover. He follows springs, examines the fragrance of every flower and leaf, explores caves, and minutely examines birds, insects, and even lizards!
That last point reminded me of his keen observation. Throughout this Ruskin Bond book, you’d find evidence of his keen observation. He can differentiate the sound of wind rustling through different trees. He can minutely tell you the mannerism of not just people, but even insects, bees, and even lizards.
I think this keen observation is what guides him to create such stunningly realistic pictures with his words. You can find this keen observation at play even in Ruskin Bond’s stories and other books. Look at these quotes from the Journey Down the Years:
“The wind makes different sounds in different trees, as I was to discover over a period of time. In certain trees, a rustling sound; as in the oak and house- chestnuts. In the pines it whistles, in the deodar it hums. In the maples in the spring, it makes a sound like castanets. All different kinds of wind instruments, you might say.”
About that lizard I have already mentioned above:
“They emerge from these retreats only during the warmest time of the day, to sunbathe and indulge in a little exercise. During the summer months they spend nearly all their time in the open.
It is during the breeding season that they undergo a remarkable change of colour. While the female confines herself to a maidenly blush, the male dons the most gaudy attire, his head, shoulders and a part of his forelegs becoming crimson or scarlet, while black patches appear on either side of the throat and on the shoulders.
The gorgeously painted male sits on a fence or the trunk of a tree, surveying the neighbourhood. His manners are as loud as his dress, and he is out to seek a quarrel. From time to time he will jerk his head and shoulders up and down, a challenge to all other males in the vicinity.”
Superb Knowledge of India’s Flora and Fauna:
This brilliant author doesn’t just love Nature and observe it keenly, he also knows it well. Throughout the book, he names and describes so many types of animals, birds, insects, plants, and trees. His wealth of knowledge is awe-inspiring. Here’s the evidence from Journey Down the Years:
“I went to Mathura at the end of the rains. The fields and the trees were alive with strange, beautiful birds: the long- tailed king- crow; innumerable doves in shades of blue and grey; kingfishers and bluejays and weaver- birds;…”
Love of Books:
All great authors are great readers too, I think. While reading Journey Down the Years, I could clearly see Ruskin Bond’s love for books and guess at his extensive and varied reading.
As this brilliant author himself says:
“When I think of all the great books I have read over the years, I realize that they have more than made up for the disappointments that sometimes came my way, and that I am indeed a fortunate man.”
Readers who love Ruskin Bond stories and books must be familiar with his delightful sense of humour. It is refreshing, kind, and subtle. In Journey Down the Years, you won’t find any satiric or sarcastic humour. Instead, you will be greeted by a feeling of peaceful cheer that slips in almost unnoticed and raises a chuckle in your heart. Here’s a tiny incident from Ruskin Bond’s childhood, as narrated in the Journey Down the Years:
“He took two large helpings and ate most of the stuffing before I could get at it. I got my revenge by emptying all the applesauce onto my plate. Uncle Ken knew I loved stuffing, and I knew he was crazy about Gran’s applesauce. So we were even.”
Valuable Lessons for Writers:
While readers will find much to love in this Ruskin Bond book, it holds many valuable lessons for writers as well. Unlike the writing guides, it does not preach the principles of good writing. Instead, it teaches by the example of its own brilliance.
However, the book does have some sentences that are a direct lesson for the writers. For example:
“Sublime splendour? I must learn not to use words in excess of their meaning. Just ‘splendour’ was sufficient! And more effective.”
However, it was his splendid word-pictures that inspired me most of all. His skilful words know the genius of raising vivid pictures that can make you feel, hear, and even smell the scene!
Ruskin Bond’s books and stories can give you a remarkable lesson in painting imagery and setting up scenes. On top of that, you can learn how to create brilliant metaphors as well. Here, taste these vivid images & metaphors created by him in this beautiful book:
“Watch a crow sidling along a garden wall with a shabby genteel air.”
“Even on the stillest of days, the peepul leaves are forever twirling and with thousands of leaves spinning like tops, there is quite a breeze for anyone sitting below.”
“Downstream I found a cave with water dripping from the roof, the water spangled gold and silver in the shafts of sunlight that pushed through the slits in the cave roof.”
“When the monsoon brings to northern India the first rains of summer, the parched earth opens its pores and quenches its thirst with a hiss of ecstasy.”
While this Ruskin Bond book is full of Nature’s beauty and his delight in it, it is not untouched by changes going on in the world. We have come so far from Nature. We consume Nature, instead of living with her. In the process, we are killing her.
The author talks fondly of the times when India was greener and less populated.
“New Delhi, then still a very new city— just the capital area designed by Edwin Lutyens and Connaught Place, with its gleaming new shops and restaurants and cinemas,” he said.
“Dehradun at the time was a pretty little town of some 40,000 inhabitants.”
But now, the situation has changed. There are people everywhere, and Nature’s kingdom is shrinking. Ruskin Bond rightly bewails:
“No maples now. No bright red leaves to flame against the sky. No birds!”
I feel that the touch of Mother Nature is vital for our wellbeing. But we don’t realize it.
Being a writer, I often find myself longing for an open sky to stare at. To feel the wind stirring my heartstrings and making my imagination come alive. To roam freely in the pristine surroundings, weaving fantastic dreams, the seeds that may give birth to resplendent stories.
But, we city dwellers have come so far from Nature. We must satisfy ourselves with potted plants and dusty trees struggling to survive on the roadsides.
“I’m of the opinion that every writer needs a window. Preferably two,” Ruskin Bond says.
“The stories and the poems float in through my window, float in from the magic mountains, and the words appear on the page without much effort on my part,” he says.
But our windows are barred because the outside world is scarier than a forest. Even the air outside is laden with dust and poison.
That is perhaps why I loved Journey Down the Years so much. It is full of the old world charm and freshness of nature. The book oozes the fragrance of simple and natural living, redolent of the olden days when we lived with Nature, instead of against it.
It is a very soothing and calming book. If you want to read an entertaining story, the Journey Down the Years is not for you. But if you are longing for some relaxing peace and refreshing joy, do try this Ruskin Bond book. If you enjoy Ruskin Bond’s stories and books, you’d love it too. It is delightful.
Finally, let me leave you with this beautiful verse from Journey Down the Years. But before that, if you want to check out this book, it is available on Amazon.
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As you rightly said at the start of the post that Ruskin Bond is a beloved author for us Indians. Whenever I visit Dehradun I try to visit the bookstore in Mussorie where he meets with his fans. Even my children love reading his, “Fun times with Uncle Ken” is one of their favourite books.
It’s so good that you can visit that bookstore! Have you met him too?
Thanks for your message.