Like most Ruskin Bond books, “The Room on the Roof,” Bond’s first novel draws from his own life, written when he was just seventeen years old.
“Dear old room on the roof, I can’t say I miss it, but I feel a certain nostalgia for that barsati where I spent an important year of my life.”
Published in 1956, this book paints a picture of post-Independence Dehra (Dehradun), it’s vibrant Indian bazaars, colourful and sometimes crazy locals and the residents of a haughty European community yearning to retain their identity.
Ruskin Bond takes inspiration from his journals to form the complex Rusty, rich boy Kishen, adventure-loving Somi and the love of his life Meena.
It is astounding that a teenager could have dived so deep into a myriad of love and loss, loneliness and belonging – pulling in the reader with him. You feel elated when Rusty makes friends, cheer when he runs away from his cruel guardian, cry when he loses the love of his life and smile when he finally finds his family in his friends.
Bond’s description of events is colourful too – he hardly uses adjectives, resorting instead to simple yet powerful worded descriptions. Like when he wants announce the arrival of the monsoon in Dehradun:
“The sky shuddered, the clouds groaned, a for of lightning struck across the sky, and then the sky itself exploded.”
Or when we first meet Rusty:
“The light spring rain rode on the wind, into the trees, down the road; it brought an exhilarating freshness to the air, a smell of earth, a scent of flowers; it brought a smile to the eyes of the boy on the road.”
Even after years, Bond’s award-winning book remains fresh in content. A tale of innocence, boyhood, deep sorrow and a longing for family, one for which Ruskin Bond himself yearned. It is not surprising that he hasn’t changed a word of this beautiful book.