Potpourri is a riveting medley of short stories and poems. If there is a writer who can write easy-to-read yet compelling stories, that one is Ruskin Bond. This particular book covers twenty-three short stories and five poems. Poems are ordinary; however the stories seem to have been gathered from an array of genres: from stories of danger and adventure to horror to romance and so on. It is a multi-themed book. Often Ruskin Bond is famous for writing about hilly people and their cultures; on a positive side, this book covers Java, Batavia, Shilong, Shimla, Burma and son on with an enchanting élan.
Many stories are short, one can finish up in just one go and a few are lengthy ones – dole out the feeling of reading a novella. Our Great Escape tells a tale about two aloof friends spending their time in a boarding school at Shimla. Just after independence when the country witnesses partition, they part away unwittingly, and the rhythm of their innocent friendship breaks recklessly. It is a great take on friendship. Another good story of friendship is Escape from Java – staged against the backdrop of WW-II. In this story the narrator along with his father survives an air crash in the sea but finally manages to reach ashore because of a mascot given by his friend, Sono, who remains back in Java to fume under the air raids carried out by Japanese.
Through this book Ruskin Bond introduces many of his family and friends to the readers, like his mother, fuming stepfather, real father, grandparents and of course Uncle Ken – a fool who gets down the posh cruise ship at a strange island.
It is interesting to read that in most of the horror stories the narrator encounters and falls in love with girls but only to receive a melancholy separation. One such story is of Binya, a young girl who meanders around the hills to graze her cattle. The writer falls in love with her, chases her, but she returns only to smile at him in the mirror of his cottage. The Eyes of the Eagle is a fitting adventurous story about a dog who tames enormous eagles to save lambs for his master, Jai.
There is a lot to relish and learn from the stories of Ruskin Bond. Unarguably, he is a favourite children’s writer in India and elsewhere.
All the stories are tenderly narrated, and ghost stories’ end climaxes are left for audiences to guess about. For a chirpy reader it is a treasure to hold.