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Book Review: The Last Tonga Ride by Ruskin Bond

The Last Tonga Ride by Ruskin Bond is a short story about his childhood days that he spent with his grandmother in Dehradun of colonial India. The narrator is Bond himself, living with his granny in a big bungalow that has all kinds of trees. His father is posted in Delhi, serving Royal Air Force. He sends Bond gifts and other books since he cannot come to meet him.

Granny often goes to bank and bazaar on a Tonga. She has a fixed Tonga of Bansi. On the other hand, Bansi values her as a special customer and also drives Tonga slowly, unlike other days. One day granny and Bond go to bank on his Tonga. When granny goes inside, they both go to a tea shop and drink lemonade. The bill is paid by Bond, as insisted by Bansi. Bansi is a typical local man. He sings Hindi films’ songs and eats paan regularly and smiles regularly. He promises ride to Bond whenever he crosses his bungalow. He will jingle the bells at the gate and Bond needs to come out. Despite the differences in culture and colour, they become friends.

However, Ayah – Bond’s caretaker doesn’t like Bansi or in fact any of the local persons like Bansi. She says Bond to stay away from that rogue, as per her opinion he drinks alcohol and gambles. One day when Bond climbs the huge banyan tree, he shouts at Bansi down the road. Bansi stops and calls him for a ride but Bond postpones it for Tuesday since that day is Ayah’s off. On Tuesday, Bond and Bansi go on a long Tonga ride. They stop at the stream, cross it, and wash the Tonga. There Bond helps him like a helper.

With time things and situations change, Bond’s father dies of malaria. Granny sells the bungalow to a doctor in neighborhood. Since they cannot carry all luggage; all the costly furniture and other items of class fall in the hands of scrap and junk dealers. They are moving to England, leaving India permanently. The train to Bombay is from Dehradun, and from there they will take a passage to England. Bansi takes them to the station and there ends the last Tonga ride of Bond, as he knows there will be a different life in England.

The theme of separation as per the situations of life is heart-wrenching in this story. The pain of separation from a place and known people is all the more on children. But that is the bitter fact of life. On has to part one day. It is a nice story, highlighting one important aspect of life that is inevitable to most of us.


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