Most of us begin our new year with some kind of new resolution but this time I thought of doing something different. I came up with my list of books that I wish to read this year. I kick-started this activity by making an exhaustive list of old and new books of different genres. I jotted down names after doing a thorough research on good authors of all times. I also shifted my focus to new age authors like Amish Tripathi, Linda Goodman and many more. I have to be very honest from the beginning that I am not equipped with the ability to read over a hundred books in one year. But I am still making an earnest attempt at expanding my horizons of literary acumen by indulging in what is called ‘rich literature’.
I commenced my reading resolution with Ruskin Bond. He is an author of British origin but was born and brought up in India. A quick recap of his life tells us about his lonely, loveless childhood, bereft of any friendship and companionship. He felt very detached from the people of his own community. Any person would succumb to such debilitating and shattering circumstance but Ruskin Bond sought refuge in the comforting lap of nature. Nature is definitely a great healer and a protector; protector from abysmal gnawing thoughts. His writings are replete with nature imageries and are most often a reflection of his own thoughts and anxieties.
The Room on the Roof is a simple yet heart warming narrative of a boy called Rusty who stays with his uncle and aunt after the sad demise of his parents. The story is based in the mesmerising valley of Dehradun bestowed with natural goodness and captivating landscape. He belongs to the affluent British community who looks down upon the local people, and are huddled together in their antique cottages in one corner of the valley. Rusty is a lonely teenager who after having completed his college education is clueless about the journey ahead. His guardian on the other hand is an authoritarian who wants him to engage in activities that will bring honour to the family. This close knit community of his ‘own people’ does not provide any comfort to him in the wake of troubled times. Instead, he feels shackled and bound by invisible chains of propriety, honour and expectation. Absence of friendship makes the going all the more tough for Rusty until one day he finds people with whom he cultivates a loving relationship.
Nature’s pervading influence can be felt from the very beginning where the author states, “The light spring rain rode on the wind, into the trees, down the road; it bought an exhilarating freshness to the air, a smell of earth, a scent of flowers; it brought a smile to the eyes of the boy on the road.” The author has brilliantly used different moods of nature to give an insight into Rusty’s own feelings. He resorts to nature imageries and delights the reader with his intelligent amalgamation of nature and human emotions. A quintessential example of this would be when Rusty learns about the unfortunate death of his love.
“Rusty was overcome by a feeling of impotence and futility and of unimportance in life. Every moment, he told himself, every moment someone is born and someone dies, you can count them one, two, three, a birth and a death for every moment…what is this one life in the whole pattern of life, what is this one death but a passing of time… And if I were to die now, suddenly and without cause, what would happen, would it matter…we live without knowing why or to what purpose.
The moon bathed the room in a soft, clear light. The howl of the jackals seemed to be coming from the field below, and Rusty thought, ‘A jackal is like death, ugly and cowardly and mad…’ He heard a faint sniff from the doorway, and lifted his head.
In the doorway, a dark silhouette against the moonlight stood the lean, craving form of a jackal, its eyes glittering balefully.”
The Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond
Death a natural phenomena has been juxtaposed with a jackal. In the earlier lines Rusty says that the jackal is heard howling every night in the nearby jungle but today its howling could be heard near the house. The uncertain arrival of the jackal alludes to the bitter truth that death is uncertain.
The story is very realistic in the way it deals with the complexities of life. Even with new loving friends life does not become a bed of roses for Rusty. He is disowned by his guardian for seeking companionship with people below their class and status. Friendship is celebrated throughout the novel as he finds shelter and comfort in the company of his new friends who accept him lovingly without any bias. Rusty experiences his share of happiness and also sorrow. He experiences sorrow in the form of death of his beloved and separation from his dear friends. Despite going through such ordeal, he emerges victorious as a mature person in the end.
Rusty’s character undergoes transformation when he crosses the boundary circumscribed by his guardian. His contempt and condescension for the sweeper boy changes, and later in the story he feels an association more with this lowly servant than with the people of the same skin colour. The novel also deals with the idea of existence. There are times when Rusty questions his sense of belonging and asserts that he feels like a nomad. His understanding of human relationships transcends the ideologies of race, class and caste, and therefore he is able to forge a healthy alliance with ‘other’ people around him.
The story is exceptional in its use of simple language and narrative technique. One of the interesting things for me was that it was not convoluted yet left the reader’s with something to contemplate. A very honest and heart warming narrative of a boy who confronts his poetic abilities in alliance with nature. It is nature that not only inspires him but accompanies him in his journey of life. It is neither philosophical nor allegorical but definitely a good read.
“Ahead of them lay forest and silence- and what was left of time…”


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