Book Review: A Book of Simple Living

In times of lockdown, if you are a nature lover and appreciate the little pleasures of life, this is a book you would enjoy reading. Written in a lucid manner, A Book of Simple Living – Brief Notes from the Hills will give wings to your thirst (if any) of living by the mountain side. The author Ruskin Bond in his usual rustic, illustrative tone describes the seasons, the skies, his writing passion, his strolling expeditions by the mountains, his rendezvous with the flora and fauna, amongst a few other impressions.

You will find mention of deodars, ferns, rhododendrons, dandelions, clovers, begonias, sorrels, nettles, miniature peepul trees, honeysuckles, convolvulus, oaks, maples, gingers—all growing in the wild. Some names may seem foreign no doubt, unless you are a botanist or a local. You will feel driven to the mountains as the author talks about peaches, plums, apricots and blackberries. It is a colourful spectacle when he takes you through his brush with the marigolds, daisies, antirrhinums, jasmines, nosegays, roses, red geraniums, nasturtiums and chrysanthemums, on different occasions. You will actually smell these plants, fruits and flowers with his description! Let me know if you don’t! 😉

The book contains short notes from the hills. Some of them are so short to include a few sentences only, but each conveying a thought you will be thrilled to ponder over. At the least, you will be left with a smile on your face. 🙂

 “A cherry tree bowed down by the night’s rain suddenly rights itself, flinging pellets of water in my face. This, too, is happiness.” How nicely said!

Ruskin Bond goes on to tell you about his feline friends, and birds such as the Himalayan whistling thrush, magpie, hawk cuckoo, pigeon, eagle, myna, sparrow, peacock, babblers, bulbul, woodpecker, crow and nightjar. Yes, animals such as monkeys, jackals, rats, foxes, cows, sheep, bears, bats, leopards, buffaloes, mules, dogs and ponies do get their mention too. You will begin to visualize these creatures as though they were a part of your life! The crickets, spiders, cicadas, grasshoppers, butterflies, fireflies, moths et al. find space in his book with their buzzing sounds. It is the overpowering affection that he has for these creatures, which gets reflected in his notes.

He enjoys the little pranks the visitors present to him. He feels a sense of completeness meeting these visitors. He says, “I’m not looking for pets; it is enough that he seeks me out when he wants company.” This statement he makes with reference to a squirrel! He seeks fulfilment in the companionship of his foster family with whom he had developed ties in the 1960s. A couple and their first born have added essence to his life.

He owes his sanity to a pigeon in the skylight at a nursing home in Delhi where he was “incarcerated” for a couple of days and was put through certain rounds of tests and scans. On page 19, he says, “I think I have learnt something of the value of stillness. I don’t fret so much; I laugh at myself more often; I don’t laugh at others. I live life at my own pace. Like a banyan tree.” These lines are worth a mention in the situation of a pandemic. It’s joyful to read the way he admires the hues skies offer through day and night.

He goes on to say how he collected odd objects such as marbles, feathers, stones, snail-shells and so on as he walked along the beach in Jamnagar. He used these objects to embellish his own room to get an “outdoors” feeling when he was within the confines of his home. What a unique type of joy that could have been?!

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Whilst discussing a restaurant in a particular town, he talks about its refurbished look where the wooden walls were now covered with mirrors, and the diners suddenly turned their attention to their own reflection than the food being served. In the same vein, he adds, “avoid mirrors as far as possible” as they don’t add much value, which is so true.

My thoughts are being echoed in the book where the author says, “slow down, and listen. There are sounds that are good to hear.”

I endorse these words of Epicurus (Greek philosopher) who has been quoted in the book: “We shall not spoil what we have by desiring what we have not, but remember that what we have too was the gift of fortune.”

I consider this as a pithy quote from the author himself: “If you have the ability, or rather the gift, of being able to see beauty in small things, then old age should hold no terrors.” These words are to be taken seriously, for the author is so vivid in his imagination and vivacious like a child at the age of 85+ years. Hats off to his spirited attitude!

First published in 2015, the book is available in stores. You would love the font of the book too. Happy reading!

Cheers,

Rukma Vasudev

The colourful garden

Nature’s bounty is best experienced when you are a part of it, living close to it. Quite a substantial period has been spent at my parents’ home called Dharani in Hubli, Karnataka, India. It is indeed enchanting to observe the garden here – a garden that my mother has tended to with so much love.

I take a stroll in the colourful garden every morning, watching out for some dainty flowers for the pooja (prayer rituals) performed by my father. The hues offered by  flowers such as shanka pushpa (Asian pigeon wings); parijatha (coral jasmine); sampige (champak); dundu mallige (Mysore jasmine); yeLu sutthu mallige; nithya mallige (common jasmine); pink, red and yellow trumpets; kanakambara (firecracker); kepala (ixora); dasavaLa (hibiscus); kaNagile (oleander); roses and so on are simply eye-catching and refreshing. Every evening, I pluck some common jasmine flowers from their lush green creepers in the balcony and string them together. Ohh, what a blissful feeling that is! The seasons have a telling effect on the flowering plants – the nandi battalu (crape jasmine) and swastik (chandni) flowers that were seen in abundance during pre-monsoons have almost depleted now in the peak of monsoons.  (By the way, there are 200-odd species of mallige or jasmine in Asia. They are known for their ethereal beauty whilst some are famed for their sweet smell.) The karibevu (curry leaves) plant is another favourite – it feels nice to smell the fresh aroma and use the leaves for cooking, straight from the garden. The tulasi/holy basil plant adds beauty to any garden. The sitaphala (sugar-apple) tree yields its fruits occasionally. The mango trees lived their lives, and a couple of times gave us unmatched joy with their luscious fruits; the next set of saplings planted are still in their growing stage. The papaya trees that grew magically had bestowed on us their yummy, seedless fruits. Apart from the heady smell emanated by the champak tree, it is a paradise for birds and butterflies. Occasionally I get to see chirpy birds such as a cuckoo, a red-vented bulbul, a sunbird, an ashy prinia, a tailor bird, a sparrow, or a coppersmith barbet perching on the champak tree as yours truly is sitting on the swing and basking in nature’s glory.

Ahh, the blowing of winds, the falling of rains and the chirping of birds are making for a natural melody these days! As Albert Einstein said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Nature does serve as an antidote to the vicissitudes of life. Here goes my homage to the colourful garden, through some pictures.  

 

 

–  Rukma Vasudev

Swiss Time

A big hello to you from Switzerland. Hope you are well.

The travel bug has bitten me this season too. After a trip to Portugal and Spain last week, we landed in yet another beautiful and rich country – Switzerland – two days ago. We have explored Basel and Zurich so far. It will be Luzern tomorrow. This was one of the countries in my bucketlist. P planned it around the time of my birthday. 🙂 Although a third visit for him to the landlocked country, he seems to be equally enjoying the visual treat offered by nature and the cultural facets unique to each city.

Well, the weather was just perfect until this evening. The temperatures rose to 30 degrees celsius at times. A feeling of irony set in as we experienced scorching heat in Switzerland! But as we travelled upwards to Luzern (Lucerne) this evening, closer to the Alps, there was a torrential rainfall! Phew! Mother Nature and her idiosyncrasies – I thought to myself. But that didn’t stop us from appreciating the hues of the city.

A visit to Interlaken and the surrounding, exotic areas is in the schedule next. After a tryst with nature there, we shall be going to Neuchatel, Bern and Geneva. Btw, many sites here have been taking us back in time…reminding us of our visits to Norway.

As usual, we have our LP guide with us. The brochures from the tourist info points too prove useful. All the moments are being captured using our DSLR camera. Hope to find some time to post some pictures as well.

Btw, if ever you are planning a trip to Europe, don’t hesitate to contact yours truly for some free tips/advice. 😉

PS: Apparently, author Mark Twain had visited Luzern years ago.

A trail to remember

Tweet…tweet…tweet …so I heard the beeps;

The beeps suddenly turned into shrieks and then into peeps;

And this goaded me to jump from my comfy seat.

As I walked up to the next room and looked up, I sighted something very sweet;

They were birds…the red-vented bulbul variety!

I grabbed my lens to capture the homely rarity.

There were two bulbuls perched on the chandelier in the drawing room.

They were chattering away to glory and I was tempted to join the chorus with a boom.

Oh, what joy they brought as they kept playing, letting themselves loose.

Ah, they were so chirpy in the concrete abode, in a way appearing recluse.

They inspected every corner under the skylight as if to build a nest;

And it seemed like they were putting all their skills to test!

Lo, by then, a third bulbul came calling out and the trio bid a goodbye, leaving a trail.

Huh, guess what sort of a trail?! They were the ‘droppings’ that looked like a rail…! 

–  Rukma Vasudev

Red-vented bulbul