A truly magical journey is what you embark upon, when you relish this book from start to finish. The process of reading this book is a one of its kind treat that makes you wonder, where on earth have simplistic writings suddenly vanished and disappeared. As you lay back with this book in hand, every page unfolds like a mystical journey, taking you back in time, somewhere far away where life is an entity of everything that is naïve and simple. Although entitled Children’s Omnibus, it has a magical aura surrounding itself that promises to appeal to the young and the old alike.
With seven short stories packed in the Omnibus, every story is like unraveling life in a country side. With one fact known that Ruskin Bond- a long inhabitant of the rustic Himalayan life, all his stories are a glimpse into the minds and hearts of people residing in these very villages and towns. No wonder then, that each story is filled with doses of simplicity as it mesmerizes readers completely to their heart’s delight.
The opening story is titled as Cricket for the Crocodile– a very uncanny and funny tale that drives home the fact that cricket is worshiped even in the hinterlands of this vast country. It is bound to bring a wide smile on you, as you turn every page. A docile crocodile is the centre of the storyline and how this reptile too muses itself with this captivating game of bat and ball, as the village lads try their best to drive away the animal from the grounds on where they seem enjoying their weekend game, and how one day a batsman drives a ball straight into the animal’s wide mouth, and how the animal seems to have taken a liking for the ball in general and the game in particular…. It’s an absurd yet a peculiar tale that is worth a read.
Readers who are particularly drawn to good cinema might have watched the movie- The Blue Umbrella. This story penned by Bond finds its place in the Omnibus. The tale of a little girl who’s attracted to a fancy blue umbrella, and how dearly she holds her umbrella, trudging it along everywhere she walks. The local grocer cum tea stall owner desires to have the umbrella and makes an effort to get it from the girl, but in vain..Finally the story unfolds how the girl gifts the umbrella to him.
Each and every story is handpicked from the rural roots of this vast country. It seems children in these rural landscapes are taught to be naïve, innocent and to live fair. They lack the impeding and unruly competitive spirit that the urbane children have in aplenty. They seem completely absorbed in their own petite lives, totally unaware about a different and contrast world broiling in cities. And yet the child in each story brings a smile to the reader, teaching him a lesson or two in leading a contented life. The children Sita and Krishna in the story Angry River are perfect examples of those who understand what it is to live selflessly. Initially complete strangers, the story reveals how their friendship buds slowly as they both tread along, navigating their way through a mighty flooded river, trying to take the stock of the situation like matured individuals, trying to help each other through the floods and trying to make an effort to survive amidst those fierce waters. A common thread binds them forever, which is the musical flute. The story shows how even today commonplace things in life are cherished and loved by village folk.
The story Ghost Trouble is one big wacky tale, full of bouts of laughter. It is a silly personification of a ghost and how it becomes the part of the life of the people surrounding it. The story goes on to describe the silly pranks being played out by this mysterious ghost. At no point does the story seem childish. It does have a childlike innocence but the way it is narrated by the author, it just successfully leads the reader to laugh out loud.
One of my favorite stories in the Omnibus is the Dust on the Mountain. It is primarily about the psyche behind rural hearts and minds to go and explore town or city life. There is always a temptation to get entangled in the city life turmoil and web. But there’s something which holds these villagers back, and makes them come back to their roots. The story is about a young boy who in order to lead a slightly comfortable life ans to make a better living moves to town side. He earns by doing odd jobs…Later when he becomes a helper on a truck which does the loading and unloading for mining purposes, the boy somehow realizes that the place where the mines are currently located, once upon a time these same places had a thicket of trees and bushes. It just brings him a realization that he doesn’t want to become a part of the concrete jungles, and that he’d be better off, much happier amidst the green belt of his own village, where even though his family earns a bit lesser, but at least they aren’t a party to such reckless urbanization.
The other two stories Grandfather’s Private Zoo and The Road to the Bazaar are a class by themselves. The former one is a description of the amalgamation of funny as well as sad moments, events and situations when a family owned a range of Animals as their pets. So right from hornbill to chameleon, python to crow- it is a complete animal kingdom which is wonderfully brought out by the author.
The Omnibus ends with the Road to the Bazaar- a series of stories like The Tunnel, The Long Day, The Window, The Boy who Broke the Bank, The Great Train Journey etc.. Each story is like a revelation in itself. It gives a visual layout of the contentment called village life. It brings out emphatically how the people by the hills derive joys out of the joys that otherwise seem so mundane to you and me who are habituated to a bloated urban life.
Read it for the little blissful moments and the refreshing moments it will bring to your reading appetite. Somehow it makes the reader feel that each story is interwoven with each other. It is a great read and a highly recommended one too.