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Book Review: Born Evil by Ruskin Bond

Born Evil by Ruskin Bond is a lengthy story covered in the book ‘Death Under Deodars’. This story discusses the possibilities of a person being born evil. Being evil is not about genetically approved thing – argues Miss Ripley Bean with the Royal hotel pianist Mr. Lobo. To justify the assumption they take the case of Hitler. Miss Bean is of the opinion that Hitler was a cruel man who killed black men, Jews, and many other innocent people, but, on the other, hand he never let animals killed. As their discussion gets dredged up ahead, she, Miss Bean, takes the example of Alexandra. The story of Alexandra dates back to thirty to forty years back when India was a colony of the British and Dehradun was the center of recreational things for the allied troops.


Alexandra was an innocent looking beautiful boy of fourteen. School teachers, girls, headmasters and whosoever knows him were fond of him. He was silent and hated everyone for no apparent reason. He would often take part in fighting the fire along with professional extinguishers. People appreciated his will to help the people caught in fire. Well, that was a mask of genuine. Inside he was a firebug – from his history chapters there was a Guy something who caught his attention and he followed his footstep. That Guy was a big time arsonist. Alexandra first time in his life set fire in the ballroom of the hotel Royal when troops were busy dancing with Anglo-Indian girls. In that incident two girls were trampled to death because there was only one exit point.

Alexandra loved watching fire spreading. He set fire at many places like shops, cinema halls, and bouquet halls, but surprisingly nobody suspected him instead people appreciated his efforts when he would work with the firefighters. When he set his own house on fire, his parents were upset by him but didn’t blame him openly and later they sent him to a missionary school being run by one American couple. There they tried to connect him with the god, thus put him in a library. He knew that books make good burning material – his imagination was full of inflammable things. He loved the sight of flame. He set the library on fire – most of the books were based on religion and he knew people didn’t read them much.

After this incident, he was appointed as a manager to an estate. He would protect the fruit orchard estate with a gun. His work was appreciated. The floor of the estate was full of pine’s crunchy leaves and widely spread. Beside the estate stood a school. He set the estate floor on fire and went to a nearby cliff and was singing his favourite song of fire. He wanted that fire to reach and destroy the school because he was dropped from school twice. First, students saw the fire and then other common people, they began running pell-mell. He standing at the cliff was guiding the fire fighters, but suddenly he fell down into the fire. His eyes got choked up, his view disconnected by the smoke. He was yelling for help. Next day his charred body was found from the orchard. People held him in high esteem. He was given a grand funeral and on his tomb his achievement was inscribed too. Though he was the real culprit but he died like a legend in the views of people.

After the discussion, Lobo walks up to the Landour cemetery, checks his grave, and finds one there. He meets Miss Ripley-Bean in the evening and says that his full name was Alexandra John Bean. Miss Ripley-Bean gulps down her drink and says, “Yes he was my brother.”

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