If you ask me what is Ruskin Bond, my reply would be Ruskin Bond is a lonely inquisitive boy sitting on the lap of the hills wanting to be loved, waiting to be accepted. There are many collections of Ruskin Bond’s writings available in the market. But what makes A Gathering of Friends special is that the author himself has chosen the stories in this collection. There are twenty-one pieces of his writings in this book. They are chronologically arranged. So the earliest of his writings come first in the book and the latest writings come at the end.
His literary expertise are well known. So reading A Gathering of Friends fills you with the joy of reading some of the best works in Indian English. It describes the nature, the people and their life in the hills. It describes the lives of Englishmen and women who made the Indian mountains their homes.
Love is a sad song is Ruskin’s own sad love story. Time stops at Shamli is its sequel where he meets his beloved once again. But this time she is wife of someone else. Angry River is an adventurous tale of a girl caught in the storm and the rain. It has a mystery element to it. Who is the boy with the flute who rescues the girl caught in the flood? Is he the Lord Krishna? The blue umbrella brings to the fore the basic human tendencies in every human, whether living in the hills or the metro-cities on the plains. It also underlines the fact that at the end of the day love conquers all. Panther’s moon depicts the life of a young boy who has to walk through the forest to go to school. A panther is shot by a shikari in its leg. As a result it can no longer hunt the fast paced deer and is forced to prey on humans and their cattle. Sussanna’s Seven Husbands is an intriguing tale of a woman whose husbands die mysteriously. The prospect of flowers, The woman on platform 8, Most beautiful and Cherry tree are full of goodness in humans and hope. Grandfather fights an ostrich is a funny tale. The eyes have it and Gracie are predictable and remind you of O Henry’s style of writing. Remember this day speaks of the last outing of a son with his father.
This book is a book of joy and loneliness. It is a book of hope and life lived amidst the impending death. It is a book which shows the changing nature of the nature and lives lived in uncertainty of both nature and life. It is a book of love and longing. It is a book which you will read again and again to get drenched in those Himalayan villages and smell the air of hope and despair present there.
The only flaw in the book is that at one place in the Angry River the word Sita is misspelt. But Bond’s writing and the canvas which he creates makes us to pardon this unpardonable mistake.