Welcome to another round of the Story Club. As announced earlier, Geetashree is hosting this month’s story. Her choice of story is “The Night Train at Deoli” by Ruskin Bond. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s not too late. Read it here and join the discussion.
I am very excited about this month’s story club for two reasons. Firstly, it is a story penned by an Indian author, Ruskin Bond. For sometime now, I have been on the look out for a suitable Indian story for the Story Club and have been dithering over a couple but couldn’t quite make up my mind. So when Geeta suggested it, I jumped at it. However, finding a free link was tricky and Geeta was kind enough to change the story.
Just a few words about the author – Ruskin Bond who turned 82 this year, is of British descent and is known as the Indian William Wordsworth. Ruskin Bond showed a flair and passion for writing at a very early age and wrote his first short story at 16 years. After his schooling in India, he went to London where he wrote his first novel – Room on the Roof, which won him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. He also wrote a sequel to it – Vagrants in the Valley. Subsequently, yielding to the call of the Himalayas he returned to India and shuttled between Delhi and Dehradun – crafting a writing career spanning over 40 years during which he has penned hundreds of short stories and over two dozen books for children, including ghost stories. He has been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards some of the highest civilian awards of the country. His stories and books have been made into popular award winning movies in India.
The other reason for my interest is that the story (like many of Ruskin Bond’s stories) is based in and around Dehradun – my hometown. But I must confess, this factor ends up being more of a distraction for I am so busy trying to identify familiar places and locales that I often miss the essence of the story – weird right?
Well perhaps, but true.
And it happened with this one too – The night train at Deoli.
Deoli – was there really such a place? Or was this a fictitious place? I wondered and mused as I frantically scrabbled through the memories of the myriad train journeys I have made between Delhi and Dehradun. Nope – no sign of any Deoli, and certainly not before the train rushes headlong into the jungles – that’s Raiwala junction (where it stops for two minutes).
Oh well perhaps it is a fictitious place. Or perhaps it’s been abandoned since then. But then I couldn’t be sure could I? Oh darn it! I wish I could take that train journey right now…
Anyway, did you read the story? An evocative story that tugs at the heartstrings, isn’t it? I could easily identify with it and the small town train stations are exactly like Ruskin Bond described – in fact it reminded me sharply of the train station shown in the Hindi movie Jab We Met.
In the story, the line that touched me most was when the girl says, “I don’t have to go anywhere.” It somehow seemed to represent the state of women in general. They wait and hope, hiding, nurturing and hoarding dreams, tsunamis, and volcanoes within themselves while going about their daily chores. Other people pass by, perhaps with a backward glance, curious and wondering, yet hesitant to reach out. The ‘incomplete’ story and the suspense regarding the fate of the girl who caught the fancy of a young boy is bound to leave the reader with a sense of restlessness and a feeling of something not quite right, sort of a haunting. Ever since I read the story, tiny train stations from my childhood ‘flash upon that inward eye.’ 🙂
Here are a few of my favorite quotes of Ruskin Bond:
Of course, some people want literature to be difficult and there are writers who like to make their readers toil and sweat. They hope to be taken more seriously that way. I have always tried to achieve a prose that is easy and conversational. And those who think this is simple should try it for themselves.
I never break my journey at Deoli but i pass through as often as I can.
Book readers are special people, and they will always turn to books as the ultimate pleasure. Those who do not read are the unfortunate ones. There’s nothing wrong with them; but they are missing out on one of life’s compensations and rewards. A great book is a friend that never lets you down. You can return to it again and again and the joy first derived from it will still be there.
“Hinduism comes closest to being a nature religion. Rivers, rocks, trees, plants, animals, and birds all play their part, both in mythology and everyday worship.”
Normally writers do not talk much,because they are saving their conversations for the readers of their book – those invisible listeners with whom we wish to strike a sympathetic chord.
I particularly liked this nugget:
Summing up his last essay in The Lamp Is Lit, Ruskin writes: ‘And there are many brave and good Indian writers, who work in their own language — be it Bengali or Oriya or Telugu or Marathi or fifteen to twenty others — and plough their lonely furrow without benefit of agent or media blitz or Booker prize. Some of them may despair. But even so, they work on in despair. Their rewards may be small, their readers few, but it is enough to keep them from turning off the light. For they know that the pen, in honest and gifted hands, is mightier than the grave.’ Ruskin then goes on to write: ‘And these are my parting words to you, dear Reader: May you have the wisdom to be simple, and the humour to be happy.’
That’s enough from me for the story and over to Geetashree’s blog for her fabulous analysis and reviews on the story of the month – Night Train at Deoli.
Thanks for reading. If anyone wishes to join the Story Club (including this one) most welcome. Just post a review and link back to this post. Or you could host the next month’s Story Club
You can read the other Story Club posts (and rules) here. Please free to discuss, comment and suggest.