Name of the book: I Was the Wind Last Night: New and Collected Poems
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Number of pages:
Price: Rs. 399
‘Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still’
Be rest assured that in no time, the lyricism in his verses will transport the reader from all her woes in connection with the vagaries of the weather, the umpteen troubles that grip her in everyday life into a world of Ruskin’s making where ‘peach and pear are still the sweetest of fruits.’
It is a timeless collection of more than a hundred of his poems written over the years grouped under ‘A Peepul Tree I Knew’, ‘Remember the Old Road’, ‘Friends, Far and Near’, ‘We Must Keep Loving, All Our Days’, ‘I’ll Take the Road Alone’, ‘If Mice Could Roar’, ‘Odds and Ends’ and ‘And As We Part’. As Ruskin Bond’s reader base might know by now, his poems are always understated and yet they exude a charm very rarely found.
As the poet confesses, he did not write much poetry until he came to live in the hills. Some of the poems in the book were written in Mussoorie in the 1960s and 70s and others, at Landour in Uttarakhand, from 1980 to present. His poems are a perfect example of what staying in touch with nature can do to one. It cleanses the mind and takes the complications out of life by giving one an entirely different and perhaps, a new perspective.
In ‘A Peepul Tree I Knew’, he amazingly speaks about the wonders of nature and how we humans are trespassers. ‘The trees start whispering among themselves when dusk slips over the mountains’ and the poet bows his head before their arms and asks for benediction. The night, the cherry tree, the ferns, the flowers, the snail, the frog, the small red ant – all begin to come gloriously alive in front of the reader as she turns the pages. The miraculous beauty of rebirth in every spring offers the reader lessons to remember and examples to emulate.
The poet transports the reader into a world where even the silence beckons and the night wind, the summer grass, time, dawn dew, moon climbing the sky – all make a distinct sound that only the reader can experience.
‘So, piper on the lonely hill,
Play no sad songs for me;
The day has gone, sweet night comes on,
Its darkness helps me see.’
There is something about this stanza and many more like this that makes the reader mull over the joy in solitude; the sense of beauty immensely touching. And such is the magic of his words that they float on the reader’s mind and then settle in as subtly as it first managed to make an impact. The impact, however, is a lasting one.
His use of imagery to create a lyrical emotion in the reader is notable. Also, his choice of words makes it easy for readers to grasp easily. It’s no wonder that The Indian Council for Child Education has recognised his role in the growth of children’s literature in India. This book can be read by children too, especially the section ‘If Mice Could Roar’ (which is a must read). It can help youngsters develop their writing skills without making it look like a daunting task.
Considering his popularity among children and the aged, it is little surprise that the book would appeal to all age groups. The range of themes brought together in the book is diverse – love, nostalgia, humour, family and friends, spending time with nature and the sense of joy in solitude – all bound together by a thin string called acceptance, an acceptance of life in all its happy and sad elements.
The book can also be called a reflection of his life where the reader gets glimpses of certain stages. It is a collection worth preserving by the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee.