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?!
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!