A Little Book of India: Celebrating 75 years of Independence 

As India marks 75 years of independence, tributes and festivities have been vibrant, exuberant, and diverse, evoking the country’s own essence. Ruskin Bond’s latest book, “A Little Book of India: Celebrating 75 years of Independence” pays tribute to the land that has been his home for 84 years.

Ruskin Bond is identified with Mussoorie, the hill station where he continues to stay. Bond has received numerous important accolades, including the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar, the Padma Shri, and the Padma Bhushan.

His debut work, “The Room on the Roof” which he wrote when he was seventeen, won the 1957 ‘John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. He has since published stories, articles, poems, and children’s books. Additionally, he has published over 500 short stories and articles in journals and anthologies.

This small book, just 100 pages long, is a collection of thoughts, observations, and feelings about India’s mountains, rivers, trees, food, sights, and noises that are distinctively, sometimes endearingly, and sometimes irritatingly, Indian.

“It is a record of some of my memories and impressions of this unique land — of its rivers and forests, literature and culture, sights, sounds and colours — an amalgamation of the physical and spiritual,” the 87-year-old author said in the book’s introduction.

A skilled storyteller, on the other hand, exposes much with a phrase, a turn of a sentence, and Bond, with a sprinkling of words, is able to bring alive an India that meets us every morning, and at every bend in the street. So, while the towering Himalayas or the sacred Ganges are celebrated, the viewpoint is tempered with a little insight here and there that emphasises the various Indias that exist, the many Indias that we occupy. So, while the Himalayas may represent a destination of pilgrimage for some, it may also represent a demanding and adventure-filled trek for others.

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Then there is this incident about the writer visiting a hilltop to view the sunset when his humble companion informs him that, as lovely as sunsets are, one cannot truly “eat sunsets.” And with one succinct comment, we have the contrast that is India as well as the meaning that the country holds for each of us.

A substantial portion of this small book is devoted to India’s history from Independence to the present. Ruskin Bond’s Anglo-Indian ancestry provides an intriguing perspective, particularly on the occasion of India’s independence from the British. Certain historical events, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and even the Partition, are viewed through a personal lens, the poignancy of the moment captured in lines that convey so much with so few words. The charismatic and powerful political leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and A.B. Vajpayee are humanised, and a glimpse into the man behind the public persona is offered.

According to senior author Ruskin Bond, Jawaharlal Nehru was a person associated with people, possessed numerous attributes, and accomplished numerous feats. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who comes from a humble beginning, has ascended to the top position via his political acumen and the will of a Yogi. In “A Little Book of India: Celebrating 75 Years of Independence,” Bond describes his memories and experiences. For 84 years, India has been his home.

“We have had many outstanding prime ministers – Nehru, Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, and many others, and now Narendra Modi, who comes from a modest background and has achieved the highest level with his political acumen and yogic will,” he wrote. In addition, they have won two general elections.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee, according to Bond, was a modest and considerate man. “A few years before he became Prime Minister, I saw him walking through a market in Mussoorie alone or with only one or two people; he was conversing freely with shopkeepers and other people,” he wrote. “When the BJP came to power, it was this humility, courtesy, and deliberation that distinguished him from his predecessors as a Prime Minister; a man who understood the aspirations of the people in different ways,” he says.

Bond attended school during India’s independence, and he recalls the tricolour and the Union Jack (British flag) being unfurled at his boarding school in Shimla. He also makes reference to Nehru’s world-famous speech, stating that it “reflects his knowledge of international affairs and his command of the English language.” Nehru was Bond’s’sweetheart’ man, virtually always sporting red roses on his achkan. He attended an English public school and university and was fluent in both spoken and written English. He was an Indian who had been inspired by the West yet remained linked to his tribe. He adored the crowd and spoke to them enthusiastically.

Additionally, the syncretic culture of this nation is highlighted, as are the great strides in development made by the country, the sacrifices made by the armed forces, which provide each of us with a protective shield, and finally, the Indian constitution, which safeguards the nation’s and people’s interests.

Finally, what Ruskin Bond shows marvellously in the small book are the feelings of a guy who cherishes what he has gained through labour and blood because he understands what is at stake in defending this idea of India.

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