Vagrants in the Valley
Rating: 4.6 /5
Author: Ruskin Bond
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Latest edition (23 August 2016)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Cost: Rs.121 (Kindle edition)
An evergreen classic about friendship and growing up, by a master storyteller. This book catches up with our favourite Rusty as he plunges into an exciting new life, dipping his toes into adulthood. Winding his way back to the city with Kishen, Rusty discovers that his beloved room is no longer his! Undaunted, however and in his trademark style, he forges new homes and new friendships as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that spans the beautiful hillsides of India.
By turns thrilling and nostalgic, this heart-warming sequel is Rusty is at his best as he navigates the tightrope between dreams and reality, all the time maintaining a glorious sense of hope. Striking, evocative, witty and wise-this is an ode to youth and all its complexities, amidst the colours, sights and smells of Bond's India.
Vagrants in the Valley is the sequel to one of Ruskin Bond's earliest and best works that drives the story of the teenage boy Rusty forward. It continues from where The Room on the Roof ends with Rusty having reunited with his old and beloved friend. Both of them continue their journey as they explore and search for a place to call home. They travel back and forth to old and new places, exploring different realities each time, as they are ultimately gripped by the unchangeable reality of growing up and shackled by the bounds that such a reality sets, as it cages the human spirit.
Rusty is Bond’s alter ego, an English boy who wants to become a writer but who loves India too much to live with his snotty guardian. He prefers to loaf around the bazaar with the local boys. However, the room that he looks forward to has a padlock on the door and he has to find other shelter and the quest for shelter turns the book into a story of coming of age.
The characters are sketched in a few bold strokes in terms of their habits and dress and that this is about coming of age and slightly older perhaps than young adults is implied by the ‘dancing girls’ who carry out their trade in the bazaar.
Bond contrasts Rusty’s independence with that of the older people who need home, land and companions to give them security. Rusty is aware that one day he too may be old and lonely but he continues searching for his dream in different places and with people of various ages.
Once absorbed into the world created by the author, what you feel for the most is - the short-lived nature of the relationships, the interactions, the bitter truth that they will probably never cross paths again.
“YOU MUST HAVE SOME COMPANION, SOMEONE TO TALK TO AND QUARREL WITH, IF YOU ARE NOT TO BE LONELY”
At the heart of Vagrants in the Valley is the beauty of the surroundings, the mountains and the tree lined roads and dips into icy cold pools by boys who have no bathrooms with running hot and cold water.
About the author:
Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli in 1934. He grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla, worked briefly in Jersey, London and Delhi, and moved to Mussoorie in the early 1960s to write full time. One of India’s best loved and most popular authors, Ruskin Bond has written over a hundred books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including the best-selling classics Room on the Roof (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), A Flight of Pigeons, The Blue Umbrella, Time Stops at Shamli, Night Train at Deoli, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Rain in the Mountains. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.