Sunday, November 11, 2012

Time Stops At Shamli, by Ruskin Bond

Time Stops at Shamli and Other Stories, by Ruskin Bond

 (ISBN: 0140128425)
Evocative of Places and Time That Exist Somewhere
(AmazonFlipkart, my review on Amazon)
5 stars
This is a notable book I read and reviewed. Click to see more such books.

I had read some stories from The Kashmiri Storyteller, but this, "Time Stops...", is an older collection, and it is an absolutely delightful read. The copy I read was all dog-eared, originally published in 1989, and all of 180 pages long.

The best story, for my money, is the book's eponymous, "Time Stops At Shamli", and at 32 pages, also the longest in this collection of twenty-one stories. The very first one, "The Funeral", is a moving account of the unexpected death of a child's father - the author's. Then there is the keep-you-up-at-night "Whispering In The Dark" that is likely to make you want to sleep with the lights on for some nights. Or the wry "He Said it With Arsenic". "The Fight" brings a smile as you remember how quickly lethal enmity could be born between children, and just as quickly it could turn to friendship.

Most of the stories are less than five pages long, many are just two or three pages long; while the longest one, as I said above, is thirty-two pages.

The evocative phrases that describe more in a few words than a picture could in a thousand. A phrase lets the imagination unfettered, setting few limits to what the mind can conjure. A photo is that much restrictive.
 I was very thankful of the style of narration - pithy and shorn of flowery adjectives and adverbs that mostly scream out the author's desperation. None of that here, save the few phrases that do not seem out of place, at all.
Like "... a breeze that whispered of autumn in the hills." or "The lightning flashed and her dark eyes were pools of smouldering fire"

The tales that tell of life in and around small towns, around villages and jungles, of streams and rivers that ran with abandon till there were fettered by the temples of an industrializing India and sullied by a population increasingly cut off from its roots. The visage in the stories is achingly evocative, I was hooked. Time in these small towns is somehow frozen, as are the lives of the people that inhabit these towns. On the other hand, there is also the realization that the life that the author speaks of has possibly long since passed off to live only in books such as this by Ruskin Bond - and the memories that remain are likely to be coated with the saccharine of nostalgia.

© 2012, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.