Instead of a Foreword I'm writing a Backward, because that's the kind of person of I've always been
backward. I write by hand instead of on a computer. I listen to the radio instead of watching television. I don't
know how to operate a cell phone, if that's what it's still called. Sometimes I red books upside-down, just for the
hell of it. If I have to read a modern novel, I will read the last chapter first; usually that's enough. Sometimes I walk
backwards. And in this book I take a backward look at people I've known, and interesting and funny things that
have happened to me on the way up to the hills or down from the hills.
In fact, I urge my readers to start this book with the last chapter and then, if they haven't thrown their hands up in
despair, to work their way forwards to the beginning.
For over forty years I've been living in this rather raffish hill-station, and when people ask me why, I usually say ' I
forgot to go away.'
That's only pattly true. I have had good times here, and bad, and the good times have predominated. There's
something to be said for a place if you've been happy there, and it's nice to be able to record some of the
events and people that made for fun and happy living.
I have written about my writing life and family life in The India I Love and other books. The stories, anecdotes and
reminiscences in this book deal with the lighter side of life in the hill-station, with the emphasis on my own
escapades and misadventures. Over the years, Mussoorie has changed a little, but not too much. I have
changed too, but not too much. And I think I'm a better person for having spent half my life up here.
Like Mussoorie, I'm quire accessible. You can find me up at Sisters Bazaar (walking backwards), or at the
Cambridge Book Depot (reading backwards), or climbing backwards over Ganesh Saili's gate to avoid the
attentions of his high-spirited Labrador. You are unlikely to find me at my residence. I am seldom there. I have s
secret working0place, at a haunted house on the Tehri road, and you can only find it if you keep driving in
reverse. But you must look backwards too, or you might just go off the edge of the road.
I shall sign off with the upside-down name given to me by the lady who'd had one gin too many.
Of course living in Mussoorie hasn't always been fun and games. Sometimes it was a struggle to make both
ends meet. Occasionally there were periods of ill-health. Friends went away. Some passed on. But looking back
over the years, there is much to recall with pleasure and gratitude. Here are a few bright memories:
Nothing brighter than the rhododendrons in full bloom towards the end of March. Their scarlet blossoms bring
new life to the drab winter hillside. In the plains it is the Dhak, of Flame of the Forest, that heralds the spring.
Here-as in Dalhousie, Shimla, and other hill-stations-it is the tree rhododendron.
At one time picnics were very much a part of hill-station life. You packed your lunch and trudged off to some
distant stream or waterfall. My most memorable prince were on Pari Tibba or at Mossy Falls, further down.
Mossy Falls, I was told, was named after Mr Moss, director of the Alliance Bank. When the Bank collapsed, Mr
Moss jumped off the waterfall. But there wasn't enough water in it to drown him, and inspite of his fall he lived to
a rip old age.
The years slip by and we grow old, but the days of our youth remain fresh in our minds. Like the day Sushila and I
walked, or rather paddled, up the stream from above the falls. Holding hands, partly to support each other, but
mainly because we wanted to
.Her slow, enchanting smile, her long lustrous black hair, her slender feet, al
remain fresh in my memory. A magical day, a magical year. And today, some forty years later, I cannot help
felling that if I go down to that stream again, I will find our footprints embedded in the sand.
Another clear memory is of my first visit to the hill-station-not just forty years ago, when I came to settle here, but
sixty-five years ago
.A small boy of seven, I was placed in a convent school, where I was very unhappy. But my
father came to see me during the summer break, and kept me with him in a boarding-house on the Mall. Always
the best of companions, he took me to the pictures and for long pony and rickshaw-rides. A little cinema below
Hakman's was my favourite. Hakman's was a great place then, with a band and a dance hall and a posh
restaurant. Nearby there was a skating-rink, which was consumed by a fire in the 1960s. We had no fire-engine
then. We have one now, but when Victor Banerjee's house caught fire a few years ago, the fire-engine could not
negotiate the narrow Landour Bazaar, and by the time it arrived the house had burnt down. Victor was very
philosophical about the whole thing, and went about re-building his dream house which is a great improvement
on the old one.
At seventy-one (my age, not Victor's), it is time to look forward, not backward, and one should not dwell too
much on the past but prepare oneself to make the most of whatever time is left to us on this fascinating planet.
That is why I called my Foreword a Backward, and this epilogue a Forward for forward we must march,
whatever our age or declining physical prowess. Life has always got something new to offer.
As I write, a small white butterfly in at the open window, reminding me of all that Nature offers to anyone who is
receptive enough to appreciate its delights. One of my earliest stories, written over fifty years ago, was about a
small yellow butterfly settling on my grandmother's knitting-needles and setting off a train of reminiscence. Now I
have done with reminiscing, and this particular butterfly is here to invite me outside, to walk in the sunshine and
revel in the glories of a Himalayan Spring.
The children are watching Jackie Chan on television. Their mother is cutting up beans prior to preparing lunch.
Their grandmother is giving the dog a bath. These cheerful folk are members of my extended family. It's a normal
day for them, and I hope it stays that way. I don't want too much excitement.
The butterfly has gone, and the sunshine beckons. It's been a long hard winter in the hills. But the chestnut trees
are coming into new leaf, and that's good enough for me. I have never been a fast walker, or a conqueror of
mountain peaks, but I can plod along for miles. And that's what I've been doing all my life - plodding along,
singing my song, telling my tales in my own unhurried way. I have lived life at my own gentle pace, and if as a
result I have failed to get to the top of the mountain (or of anything else), it doesn't matter, the long walk has
brought its own sweet rewards; buttercups and butterflies along the way.
Roads to Mussoorie is a memorable evocation of a writer's surroundings and the role they have played in his
work and life.
With an endearing affection and nostalgia for his home of over forty years, Ruskin Bond describes his many
journey to, from and around Mussoorie, and then delves into the daily scandals surrounding his life and friends in
the (not so) sleepy hill town. The pieces in his collection are characterized by an incorrigible sense of humour
and an eye for ordinary-and most often unnoticed details that are so essential to the geographic, social and
cultural fabric of a place.
With a chuckle built into every line, Ruskin Bond's Roads to Mussoorie is both droll and wicked, thoughtful and
tender. A little gem of a looking-over-the shoulder account of a lifetime..
Ruskin Bond, well-known as one of India's best-loved and most prolific writers, has been writing novels, poetry,
essays and short stories for almost half a century now. Apart from this, over the years he has expertly compiled
and edited a number of anthologies. For his outstanding literary contribution, he was awarded the john Llewellyn
Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957, the Sahitya Akademi award in 1992 (for English writing in India) and the Padma
Shri in 1999.
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