Book Review: Listen to the Wind by Ruskin Bond

Listen to the Wind by Ruskin Bond is short story covered in the book: Rusty Comes Home. Listen to the Wind explores the mysteries associated with Pari Tibba, a famous hill top in Mussoorie where the narrator lives.

As the narrator says the month of March is considered unpleasant in the hills because it brings torrential rain with cold wind. One evening he goes to one of his neighbor's cottage, Mrs. Pettibone, an old lady who was lying in her bed with three hot water bottles to her company since there was no fireplace lit at her home and the chimney was silent.

As they both converse, the weather outside turns horrendous and scary. It is raining in torrents, and the occasional thunderstorm lightning is provoking fear in their hearts.

Mrs. Pettibone says that Pari Tibba - meaning burnt hill is a haunted place - whosoever goes there for settlement dies of lightning. To prove her point, she begins narrating the story of Robert.

Robert was a young Englishman of around eighteen, born in India. His parents wanted him to settle down in England. Since he loved vagrancy in the forest, thus one day he heard a distant singing voice of a girl. He chased that voice in the hilly forests for days and found that it was a local girl.

He followed her a few more times and soon they fall in love. He was a charming guy and the girl loved his decency, since he didn’t try to ravish that lone girl in the forested ways. However, an Englishman marrying a local hilly girl was unacceptable in the unforgiving English society. He knew that his parents would do every possible thing to drive away that girl.

When he asked the girl's father for her hand, his father being inferior could not say either yes or no. Also, the man was from Brahmin caste and offering his girl to an Englishman means getting ostracized from his society. Clearly, he was against their love affair but did not say anything, as then locals did not have temerity to raise voice against the Whites.

Having understood their plight, Robert and that girl decide to run away from home. The night they ran away, there was tremendous rain and following the lightning from the sky. They seeking a shelter arrive at the Pari Tibba on which was built a ruined building. When they hid in, a thunder lightning from the sky fell upon them. In the morning their charred bodies were recovered.

Since then it has been circulated that Pari Tibba is haunted and no one comes alive from there at night. After hearing the story, the narrator leaves for his cottage. In the morning, he visits Pari Tibba and goes to the building where the couple had died of lightning.

He stands there for a few moments, trying to listen to the voices of dead but instead he finds wind susurrating in the pine forests and that wind had a voice, probably of those lovers.