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Book Review: Delhi Is Not Far by Ruskin Bond

As the author forewarns it is a plot less tale, the story is about lower middle-class yet busy people who live in a town and manage day-to-day difficulties. It features a slew of characters – all ambitious but tied to their native town Pipalnagar in more than one ways. Arun is a struggling writer; he writes cheap thrillers for small publishers. His publishers advise him to write thick books or guides for colleges that sell like hot cakes. But he wishes to follow his passion than indulging into a pure game of money making. It is clear that people of small town care about passion and interest over minting money.

Next is Deep Chand, the barber, he is of the opinion of moving to Delhi where he can make lot of money by opening a saloon shop. Aziz, a teenager, owns a musty junk shop. He too wants to open a big junk shop in Chandni Chowk. Arun is the central character of the novella around whom other minor characters gallop about. Suraj is an orphan suffering the fits of hysteria. Arun takes him home and they live together. Suraj is a college student and hoping to find a job in a big city after finishing the exams. Suraj is too week and Arun thinks that he may die on any odd day. Kamla, the keep of Seth Govind Ram, becomes a good friend with them and often shares her part of pain with them.

Most of the characters are either in debt or stuck mainly due to financial reasons, hence their planning to go to Delhi in the hope of making something bigger is always on the tenterhooks. In the end none of the characters make it to the big city. Their lives are so strewn that it would take years to gather required money and to move ahead.

The book has some of the repetitive characters like the dumb Goonga and the mention of the clock tower is often made in Dehradun, as here Pipalnagar is just a small town. Despite these pitfalls, the book is a light read for all types of readers. The book is more on day to day life and has no concrete climax or conflict of interests. Rather it keeps their characters’ lives interdependent by mingling the threads of misery and ambitions together. The character Arun shows the yesteryears of Ruskin Bond – how he struggled as a writer in India.

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