A Gathering Of Friends By Ruskin Bond

A gathering of friends

a gathering of friends is a collection of 21 short stories.

The twenty-one stories in the book are the greatest pieces of fiction written by Ruskin Bond. Chosen by the author himself, from a body of work built over fifty years (starting with his award winning first novel, ‘The Room on the Roof’, and ending with ‘Tales of Fosterganj’), this collection includes well-known masterpieces like ‘The Night Train at Deoli’, ‘The Woman on Platform 8’, ‘Rusty Plays Holi’, ‘Angry River’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘The Eyes Have It’, ‘Most Beautiful’, ‘Panther’s Moon’, as well as newer stories like ‘An Evening at the Savoy with H.H’ and ‘Dinner with Foster’. Taken together, the stories in A Gathering of Friends show why Ruskin Bond has long been regarded as one of the pillars of Indian Literature.

Timeless tales

Ruskin Bond's stories have the essence of the hills, the trains through the deodars, uninhibited exploration of childhood and other vagaries of life. They have such a universal appeal. They are 'rust-free'- they don't lose their importance with time. They never get corroded with the passing of the years. Stories spun with such warmth and delicacy. Heart rending tales.

In ‘Love is a sad song’ a 30 year old man falls for a 16 year old girl named Sushila. It’s a story of his remembering the time spent with her, their love, him trying for marriage and the elusive girl not confirming her love. She is a school girl after all. It’s set in the hills and in the busy city of Delhi.

“It’s not time that is passing by. It’s you and I.”

Above is one of my favorite quotes from this rather long short story.

Ruskin Bond: The master of nostalgia and memories

Ruskin Bond’s stories have been a part of our school syllabus. So childhood memories are almost built on these stories. I remember having felt extreme nostalgia and yearning for Deoli, a place I have never been to in real life, after reading The Night Train at Deoli. Such is the power of stories. People you have never met and places you have never visited become a part and parcel of your life.

a gathering of friends

When in this world trust needs to be earned and strangers should not be granted trust in any way ‘The Woman on Platform 8’ is such a refresher on a totally different idea. Strangers are like portals to different parallel universes. And connection should not be so hard.

A gathering of friends: People and places left in a Time warp

His stories are emotional in a subtle way, they tug at your heartstrings, thought provoking yet simple. Simplicity forms such a huge part of ingredients for his short stories

"His books seem impervious to the dictates of literary fashion or changing trends."

“Time Stops at Shamli” is one of my personal favorite. An interesting jotting of events involving an array of characters when the author decides to break his train journey in the remote hilly village Shamli which has one tonga for transport and one hotel for stay. “The prospect of Flowers” too exudes a soft remembrance and warmth of home- a place of comfort. It talks of the youthful curiosity of uninhibited mind and joys of childhood.

”Her home was in these hills, among the oaks and maples and deodars.”

“Most Beautiful” is a story that shows how relevant it is today as it was in yesteryears. Beauty is overrated.

Simplicity a way of enriching life

Ruskin Bond’s stories teach a way of life- less is more. They are all about finding fulfillment in simple things. Finding meaning in everyday routine. Finding moments to cherish in everyday mundanity.

Since most of them are based on anecdotes, have timelines in the past, and remote undiscovered places, old world charm is evident. Most stories present the calm and quiet life in the mountains – show his immense love for the hills. There is stillness in these stories. Those times were not fast paced. And the characters took time to feel life closely.

The stories in ‘a gathering of friends’ are their own kind of fairy tale- a solace in this ever modern and practical world. Infusing a new narrative in the everyday humdrum of life. His stories have inspired generations.

Do you have a favorite Ruskin Bond story? Has any of these quotes been a part and parcel of your life since childhood? I would love to know.
Recommendations of short stories by other authors are welcome too.

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Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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