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Book Review: Tales of Fosterganj by Ruskin Bond

Tales of Fosterganj by Ruskin Bond is a full-fledged novel based on his living experience in a small town called Fosterganj. He went there to live for some time in 1961. First, Ruskin goes to Mussoorie as a tourist from Delhi. Then, one morning he hikes downhill only to find himself in a slow-paced town called Fosterganj. He liked the place instantly because of less crowd and slow-paced life. To fulfill one’s need there is everything, like post-office, bank, a mild bazaar and so on. To his relief, there are no hotels like of Mussoorie. Ruskin doesn’t like Mussoorie because of the commercial element and the crowd of tourists.


As a writer he prefers peace all around him. a place like Fosterganj with no commotion at all attracts him instantly. He takes a room on rent above the bakery. The bakery is run by Hasan, who has about a dozen children. Soon, Ruskin comes across other interesting characters of the novel such as Vishal - the bank manager; Foster - a royal descent, Sunil – a pickpocket. Fosterganj is a very nice place but still there are some mysteries that surround it. There is a constant fear of leopards being attacking humans and animals. People cannot make out which leopard is a man-eater and which is animal picker. They live in fear.

Professor Lulla is a weird man – he often attends others funeral for no valid reasons. One day while going for a funeral, he is attacked and dragged by a leopard. His death confirms that there is a leopard on a killing spree. One night Vishal and Ruskin put a goat on bait and try to kill that leopard but they failed miserably.

One evening while coming back from somewhere through a deep forest, Ruskin gets stranded in the torrential rain. He sees a strange and ugly bird that screeches awfully, it scares him to death. Soon, he meets a hare-lipped boy of twelve, but his hand and limb are sturdier to his age. The boy takes him to a ruined palace. He is given tea and food by the boy’s mother who looked in her late forties. The palace is a rundown building without electricity. The boy and the woman are the caretakers of the palace – they say that this palace belongs to their ancestors. The palace is under litigation and their so-called owners are located at different places. Ruskin names that palace as Fairy Glen for his reference.

The rain does not stop. After dinner, Ruskin is taken to an old room in the palace, supposedly of the Maharaja. Beyond midnight Ruskin hears strange screams and when he opens the bed box, he finds a royal skeleton in it. He rushes out of the toilet way in fear, as the room was locked from outside.

With time, at Fosterganj, Ruskin develops friendship with his owner Hasan, Vishal, and a bluff called Foster. He listens to their plans and takes fun from them all since his life is of a simple writer, not making much money. The funny character in the book is Foster, he constantly changes his business plans and often says that his ancestors bring all royal things to Mussoorie from Scotland. Ruskin often cuts him off with the facts. Foster cultivates gladioli in his garden and often sells them to new people who roam about Fosterganj. Once he fooled Ruskin.

Other than the episodes from Fosterganj, the novel also sees some adventurous turns, like the earthquake of Uttarakashi when he goes for catching big lizards for extracting oil with Sunil, the pickpocket.

After some time, the owners of the Fairy Glen palace decide to sell it to some other party for the making of a hotel. A middleman visits the palace often for its detailing and everything. One day he is found dead in the forest. The police look for the culprit but to no avail. The boy and his mother are out of suspect circle. One day Ruskin meets the boy and the latter gives him a wooden box full of gems and jewels. After that it is his duty to keep it secret and safe from others. Well, he fails in doing that. After running out of money, Ruskin leaves Fosterganj and goes back to Delhi for a job. One day in a newspaper he comes across about the murders of Fosterganj. He follows the news only to find that the boy of palace was not a boy, well he was a lover of that woman and he was around fifty years old. Their main occupation was to rob the people of their gems and jewelry. Ruskin was so naïve to recognize them…but he was sure that the woman with him was not happy. He read a sense of loneliness when he met her first time.

Though there are many Ruskin Bond books, but this one is classic, packed with light action and humorous drama. There is a lot of mystery unfolding event after event.

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