Ruskin Bond’s latest offering, The Beauty of All My Days, is not a literary marvel. It is instead a beautiful amalgamation of snippets from his life thus far. From a broken childhood and rewarding adulthood to the foggy lanes of London culminating into the wilderness of Dehradun, the memoir delves into everything that has gone into the making of the 84-year-old author.
The book doesn’t preach much, except that it doesn’t hurt to live a life of solitude as long as it entails contentment. “I sought solitude, but I did not seek loneliness. You can be lonely in a crowd, in a big city… and you can live alone in a cottage in the hills and be far from lonely,” says Bond. It’s not the first time he speaks of desolation in the book. Time and again, he mentions finding happiness in unison with nature, away from the hustle of crowds, with no one to receive him or see him off while moving cities and countries, creating an image of a man living alone in his glory.
That image, however, doesn’t last long, as the author reassures the reader on multiple instances that he has had many friends and has never felt the pangs of separation and alienation. “I’m a person without many regrets,” he says.
The memoir has undertones of most themes deployed in Bond’s books—longing for a room of one’s own, longing to return to the quiet of India’s foothills, longing to regale in the company of friends, flowers, insects, birds, books and cinema.
With this book, Bond also debunks the myth that memory begins to fail one with advancing age, as he presents in vivid detail every life-altering experience he has had. Talking about the time he was in London, Bond says, “I still missed India… The texture of the earth, the soil and its various shades. I missed its smell after the rain… I missed the scent of jasmine, the fragrance of mango blossoms, of neem pods bursting underfoot, of cow-dung smoke.”
Writing about the ordinariness of life is no cakewalk. One has to be sure to not make it seem mundane and yet spare the reader no minutiae. And Bond seems to have mastered the art, narrating his life’s normalcy with such thrill that the reader can see him breathing life into every image he draws.
“Wherever you go you will find your freedoms curtailed—in the Americas, in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa…We are the true robots, not those sad mechanical creatures created in our own image,” Bond says in the final chapter, My Place of Power.