By Rehan Sheikh
(While the Birds Still Sing by Ruskin Bond published by Natraj Publishers)
“Live close to nature and your spirit will never be easily broken, for you learn something from patience and resilience,” are some of the golden words enshrined in the latest composition of Mussoorie-writer, Ruskin Bond. For more than six decades, Bond has lived in the misty mountains of Mussoorie surrounded by the natural world, which has inspired his books and tales all these years. Bond, perhaps, is one of the few writers who have recognised Nature in its finest. One cannot find many books around on nature and ‘While the Birds Still Sing’ is a fascinating and enchanting book that will not fail to reconnect us with Mother Nature. Wise, anecdotal and witty, this composition collects illuminating essays and Haikus in his trademarked style, which are here to stay with us for many years to come.
The very first look of the book will enlighten you about the magical contents inside. The cover, delightfully designed by Chandan Crasta, accompanied by an illustration from Prenita Dutt, sums up the entire book. The hardcover binding, which has gone into abeyance, contributes heavily to the elegance and magic of the cover.
The book, in the beginning of which Bond rightly puts a poem connoting to the recent climate changes, has been broken down into fragments like Secrets and Truths, Mountain Magic, A Life in Nature, The Rains, The Rains Have Come, Insect Musicians and My Paradise of Birds and Trees My Friends, My Guardians, My Critics. Ruskin Bond sets off the book with a brief Foreword in which he writes, “But unlike man, Nature is reborn every day. Happy Birthday, World.”
In Secrets and Truths, the opening chapter of the book, Ruskin Bond brings to light the truths of living life in an era when technical mayhem overrides life. For instance, where he writes about serenity, solidarity and value of stillness – “To get away from it all, just once in a while, into the hills or fields or bylanes, where ‘I am I’, is to enjoy undisturbed serenity.”
In Mountain Magic, Ruskin Bond shares with his readers some learnings that he has accumulated in all these years of living in the laps of mountains. He comes to trees and flowers, whom he considers as his friends, in Trees My Friends, My Guardians, My Critics. At first glance, it may seem to a chapter either on science or deforestation but Bond pens it beautifully as he puts in mythology lingering with the many trees he has come across, stories of trees from childhood, as well as, skilled detailing of the trees.
Unsurprisingly, every sentence holds its own essence. It was impossible to skip any lines and it kept me glued till the very end. It has been written in a seamless narrative and is a must-have for every Ruskin Bond aficionado.
(Rehan Sheikh is a student and writes short stories and articles. His works have appeared in a number of youth magazines and newspapers.)