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Book Review: David Copperfield in the Jungle by Ruskin Bond

David Copperfield in the Jungle by Ruskin Bond is a short story; it is staged against the Terai forests of the Siwaliks. The narrator of the story is a young Bond. His grandfather was a generous wildlife enthusiast but he never killed any animal for fun. Ruskin and his grandpa both of were opinions that killing animals for fun was an act of injustice. On this planet, both have the right to live in their respective dwelling places. Well, humans don’t understand this.

At the age of twelve Bond has no interest in shikar or hunting. He finds it terribly boring. Once Uncle Henry and his sporting friends take him on a shikar expedition into the Terai forest of the Siwaliks. The prospect of a whole week in the jungle as a camp follower bored him. He doesn’t like guns that kill animals or humans. They take shelter in one of the forest bungalows. On the second day, Ruskin is left behind. He begins exploring the bungalow. Soon, he discovers a shelf of books half-hidden in a corner of the back veranda.

Finding books in the jungle is an unlikely proposition. Who could have left behind? A literary forest officer? A memsahib who had been bored by her husband’s camp-fire boasting? Or someone who had no interest in the manly sport of slaughtering wild animals and had brought his library along to pass the time. Well, he is least bothered about its owner. There are around thirty volumes. He clears off the dust and begins seeing them. As his reading is not yet started, he is ready to read anything that comes as free. He discovers Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse, M.R. Jame’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and Charles Dickens David Copperfield.

As shikaris everyday return home empty-handed, they will talk about this and that. But on ground reality there are struggling even to shoot a wild geese. Up till third day, Ruskin was done with two books, but currently he is reading Charles Dickens David Copperfield. And he knows that he will not be able to finish it by the time camp ends.

One day he sees a barking deer and then a leopard running away from the bushes with a dog in his jaw. Ruskin has a hunch that the leopard is hiding behind the shikaris. A week gets over and they have nothing to show and share. It was a futile hunting expedition. Well Ruskin is happy to find his reading taste and he brings David Copperfield along with him. It is always better to bring a book along rather than leaving it for dust and rust.


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