Despite being a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I’d hadn’t read any of Ruskin Bond’s books. I must confess that All Roads Lead to Ganga should not be understood in its literal sense despite the fact that this book is a non-fiction.
In his opening chapter, Ruskin Bond claims that the mountains, especially the Himalayas, haven’t been a point of focus for many writers. The seas have always been celebrated by many a famous writer like Conrad, Melville and Stevenson (to name but a few).Hence, Ruskin Bond turns to the Taoist poets for inspiration. Kipling, according to Bond has occasionally touched upon hills but the Himalayas do not appear to have given rise to any memorable Indian Literature, at least not in modern times.
The reason for it, he justifies, is that life in hills has never been easy. Hill people have their work cut out just to wrest a livelihood from their thin, calcinated soil.
Hence, writers have to stay in the plains to make a living.
Ruskin Bond was lucky in this regard for he had a very efficient helper in the form of Prem Singh. Although not going beyond the primary stage, Prem Singh had an aptitude for reading and a good head for figures.
It was Prem Singh and his wife Chandra who brought stability at home, looking after all the practical matters which Ruskin Bond found himself helpless with.In short, Prem Singh and Chandra made it possible for Ruskin Bond to write and without their pivotal role in Ruskin Bond ‘s life, you wouldn’t be reading this book review in the first place!
He talks about the rising population and wonders about the capacity of the Himalayas to sustain the ever increasing numbers of the populace.
In a very comical manner, he subtly talks about the mating of the birds.
Christened the Brainfever bird by the British, these were the nocturnal visitors to the jackfruit and banyan trees. Ruskin Bond writes that the bird was tuning up for its main concert as it seemed to be saying:
‘Oh dear, oh dear! How very hot it’s getting! We feel it…WE FEEL IT…WE FEEL IT!’
Ruskin Bond also talks about marriages.
How Garhwali women usually invest their savings in silver and gold ornaments.
“At the time of marriage, it is usually the boy’s parents who make a gift of land to the parents of an attractive girl, a sort of dowry system in reverse.”
I find myself at odds with the phrase “attractive girl” and I believe he could’ve put it across so much better.
It makes me wonder, what separates a supposedly unattractive girl from an attractive one? If a woman was deemed unattractive, would her parents give dowry to get a married?
How can you define attraction? Isn’t it all about perception?!
With a writing style that is very simple, lucid and poetic he takes us through accounts of his travels, the histories of the places and the people; for example, the story of ‘Gun Hill’ in Mussoorie.
He writes about the experiences he had while visiting the various temples like the Gangotri Temple and the Kalimath Temple .He also writes about the sacred streams, holy places and holy men.
At the end of the book, nostalgia swamps you. Times have changed and it is all so different now. He looks for signs of familiarity as he walks carefully down the road in danger of being knocked down by a speeding vehicle.
The Hills have helped him establish the writer in him and no matter what a part of Dehra would always remain in him.
It’s a must read for the nature enthusiasts, lovers and travellers.
Those caged in their cubicles would feel refreshed to read about the Himalayas and probably plan their next vacation to the Hills!