“Moving in its simplicity and underlying tenderness…a novel of marked originality.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Has anyone ever compared Ruskin Bond’s Rusty to Kipling’s Kim? Both are lost Anglo Indian schoolboys who find themselves a welter of friends, having no family – though Kim has the British army to fall back on.
Ultimately of course, the scope of the two novels is different. Kim has a much wider sweep, the length and breadth of the Grand Trunk Road and the Great Game, a longer growing up time. Rusty on the other hand lives in a newly independent India, determined to run away from his stepfather and find escape with the friends he makes in the bazaar.
He is a child and through the games of childhood learns how to deal with the harsh reality of life, softening it through friendship. Like Kim he lands on his feet most of the time – a room on the roof to live in, money earned through teaching another friend English, a diet of unhealthy bazaar food and raging hormones as are only natural. Life is by no means easy but somehow it goes on.
Rusty has a kind of freshness because it is the story of a seventeen year old written by a seventeen year old. Everyone knows how Ruskin Bond escaped from a dreary life in London to the Dehra that he loved and that love of the country comes through in the descriptions and the detailing.
That gives it more links to Kim, the smoke and colour of the bazaar, the India that most foreigners would describe as exotic and that most Indians would realize was a different way of seeing.
Rusty is a book on the value of friendship and the importance of growing up and it maintains these values. For its 60th Anniversary the book has been gifted gentle watercolours by Ahlawat Gunjan that enhance the atmosphere with unexpected touches of colour here and there. What is more amazing is the fact that Ruskin Bond has continued to live in his room on the roof, gazing down at the Dehra Valley with all the beauty of nature and the love of friends to comfort him. It is emphatically a young adult’s book, written at a time before that term was coined.
Added 11th March 2016