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Ruskin Bond is a prolific writer, and generations of Indians have grown up reading his books, some of which are also part of the school curriculum. This collection of twelve stories reminds us why Ruskin is indeed the Bond of children’s literature.
Stories Short and Sweet is pegged under children’s books, but it is a must read for all adults as well!
Ruskin Bond has made Mussoorie in the Shiwalik Hills his home, and most of the stories in the collection are based in this lovely landscape. Only a master storyteller like Ruskin Bond can weave in such a wealth of information and advice into a story. The hills and their flora and fauna come alive and one can almost visualize Mussoorie and its surroundings before rampant commercialism threatened to destroy the whole delicate ecosystem.
‘Those Three Bears’ is a delightful observation on Himalayan bears, and why you must not run downhill when chased by a bear. In ‘When the Trees Walked’, Grandfather plants trees in a rocky riverbed to create spaces for birds and butterflies to come. A ‘Bouquet of Love’ is about an old British spinster Miss Mackenzie who indulges a local boy’s love for flowers and gifts him her most precious book. The woman who comes back as a white pigeon to haunt her husband in ‘The White Pigeon’ , ‘The Overcoat’ and ‘The Snake Charmer’s Daughter’ are stories that are re-told on cold nights in hill stations. We meet the impish ghost Pret who unleashes his havoc creating antics on the family when his tree is cut down in ‘The Pret in the House’. ‘The Tunnel’ is a reminder of the committed hill people who are not threatened by wildlife and go beyond their call of duty to protect the animals. The ‘Who He Rides a Tiger’ is a retelling of ‘Gazi Saheb’ a legendary fakir in the Sunderbans. ‘The Coral Tree’ is about simple friendships and ‘The Thief’s Story’ is about the lessons a young thief learns and the generosity of the person who helps him learn these lessons.
Ruskin Bond’s stories mirror a gracious, genteel world, where no animal or human is a threat, and where they can co-exist. His stories will make you want to recapture that time again when the delicate ecosystems were cared for and nurtured by those who made it their home . Perhaps the last story ‘The Wild Fruit’ in this collection is a bitter reminder of the deliberate insensitivity of humans towards each other and the environment.
A must read. 5/5