Book Review: The Road to the Bazaar by Ruskin Bond

The longest novella in the Children’s Omnibus is ‘The Road to the Bazaar’. However, The Road to the Bazaar is not a rhythmic story; rather it features a collection of Bond’s favorite characters such as Suraj, Koki, Ranji, Anil, Amir, Teju, Nathu and many more. And all protagonists of the stories are children-which indeed is rare in the Indian literature arena. Suraj is a vagabond and poor in studies so he at the time of results faces a great difficulty in keeping ties with his parents. Once he tried to run away but the plan never materialized due to lack of money. Ruskin Bond has taken great efforts to precisely show how money constraints make the childhood days more thrilling. Thus, in every character he remains something incomplete only to make him/her keep chasing that thing.

What are some common interests of children living in a small town when the technology was not prevalent? Of course, the answer lies in common interests like gossiping, collecting insects like butterfly, staring out the window or over the roof for hours, discovering the prohibited places of jungles, having obsession for sports like cricket, stealing fruits from the orchards, watching trains and the urge to see the entire world on their own terms. All this has been fulfilled nicely in ‘The Road to the Bazaar’ by Ruskin Bond. For sports obsession there is a character like Ranji, he scores good runs but morally lacks the determination hence he seeks guidance from a veteran player Mr. Kumar.

Not all children lead a happy and carefree life, here Amir who stays at the roof often stares outside to pass his time and later when an orphan called Mohan while selling basic cosmetic items confronts him, he offers Mohan to stay with him since Mohan has nowhere to go. They become good friends and stay together. Kindness in children never dips-and Ruskin Bond always makes a deep note of this virtue in his stories. The very first story - The Tunnel - underlines the value of jungles in the lives of humans and how they feel disturbed at the human intervention has been captured beautifully.

The young Mukesh with the help of his friends in the neighborhood collects animals and birds and lizards to build a zoo at his home like the zoo he visited in Delhi with his parents. When the fiasco happens, people run hither thither and all the lizards get free entry in his home. This story is about a young and over ambitious kid, yet filled with pure innocence, causes fits of laughter to the readers. Truly an amazing piece!

Despite separate chapters the characters keep mingling with one another. Since most of the characters either pass through the bazaar road or while away the time hopping from sweet shops to toy to sports. Hence the title The Road to the Bazaar is appropriate and simply brings back the nostalgia of the childhood days for those who have spent life in peaceful small towns.