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Book Review: Summertime in Old New Delhi by Ruskin Bond

Having failed to make a reasonable source of income from writing stories and novels during his stay in Dehra after returning from London, the narrator Rusty comes down to Delhi to see some success in his slow-moving career. Th story - Summertime in Old New Delhi - is a part of ‘Rusty Comes Home’ book, this story shuttles between a couple of time accounts: childhood days spent with his father, and as a young grown-up writer moved to Delhi for a promising writing career. It does not chronicle the events but certainly throws the reminiscences of his early unsettled life.

Well placed in the settling Delhi: it describes the post partition situation when people from the other side were stacking up in the newly formed capital of India. Very subtly Ruskin Bond takes the readers on a ride to see the 1940s and 1950s eras, all memories. Well in 1940s, he came with his father to live in a RAF tent in the outskirts of the city, near Qutab Minar, he remembers then there were no buildings only scrub jungles. And for travelling to railway station and other places they took Tonga.

At large, the story runs a series of memoirs, recollecting the early days of his life as both child and in the second stint as a writer after a failed attempt in Dehra. As he said in many other stories that he likes to be in small town where there is less crowd, and abundant nature in the forms of streams and hills and pleasant weather, but Delhi was just opposite, even worse than London.

It certainly takes the readers back to those days when modern lifestyle was a rare sight and in one instance he describes the arrival of Bhisti - a water carrier man from backward caste - who used to sprinkle water on the draped mats hung on the windows and doors. That was the only time when they get wisps of cool air otherwise in a scorching day. The story is simple and plain but the insights are powerful - how people brave scorching summer in urban life and the conditions through which people went post the independence. Finally, weather conditions don’t matter if someone has a fine company. And he had his father’s. They both would go for walking, cinema, and in spare time discuss the news of war advancing to India or elsewhere. Rusty explores Delhi on his own when it was settling from a scratch after independence, after the jolt of country partition.


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