‘How Far is the River’ by Ruskin Bond is a short story about a child who wants to discover a river which he has never seen in his life. Between the boy and the river, stands a tall mountain full of shrubs, trees, and forest. The boy is aware that beyond that mountain runs a river and he has never seen that river. He craves to see that, as children are most inquisitive among all age people.
And one day he gets the opportunity to discover that river. Seldom have his parents gone out for all day. But today they have gone to meet some of their friend. They will be back in dark, after evening. To eat, he packs a loaf of bread. He starts his journey naked feet. First, he meets a woodcutter. Upon asking how far the river is, he says that it is around seven miles. He also warns that it will be difficult for him to come back home before the day ends. He ignores his warning. Next, he meets a girl coming from the opposite direction. Apprehensively, she is lost in herself, without hesitation she says that the river is twenty-five miles ahead. The narrator feels bad and ignores her information.
After walking in heat on the stony path, he meets a local boy managing his cattle herd. This boy provides the right information by saying that the river is just around the mountain. They eat lunch together. After that they both walk together for long distance but in the way the boy takes the path that goes to his village. The narrator becomes alone again. Though frustrated and lonely, he keeps walking. He thinks that if he returns home from this point then it will become a shameful experience for him. Without caring for time and suffering, he continues walking. After some point, he hears the soft gurgling of water. He runs to the sound – there is the water of the river, he jumps in that. Though it is cold like snow but he likes it.
What happens next…did he able to go back home on time or not, is left to the readers. Ruskin is class, simple and short stories but with very deep meanings.
This story rightly explains the wanderlust found in children and what kind of dedication and planning they keep in store to execute it at the first opportunity.