A Slice of Life

Ruskin BondRuskin Bond

Ruskin Bond's books show that the art of happiness lies in the capacity of looking anew at the old and the familiar.

The United Nations finally announced a Happiness Day; philosophers are grappling with the oldest questions about who may be the final arbiter of our individual happiness levels; positive psychologists are propagating their young discipline with exercises on how to make ourselves fit for happiness, how to learn it; and travelogue has a new genre chasing down geographic zones of happiness. What use then of a novelist's opening remarks (Carol Shields in Unless)? "Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head: it takes all your cunning just to hang on to it, and once it's smashed you have to move on to a different sort of life."

Or maybe, happiness is simply the examined life, the life of careful focus on the little things too, amid appraisals of momentous events and moral dilemmas, of finding the capacity to look anew each day at the very familiar. This is a good time to find answers to questions about happiness and its twin, contentment in the writings of Ruskin Bond. Because, with the monsoons leaving northern India, it may not be too self-indulgently fanciful to believe that there is a particular quality to reading during the last rains of the season, providing a narrow window during the changing seasons to discern unusual sentiments between the lines. The light is different, everything sounds just that bit different, somewhat muffled, and even in these times of endless distractions, suddenly there is no greater indulgence than to curl up with a book. Who knows what it is in the air that marks out this season for returning to familiar books, and for finding new narratives oddly familiar in a way we would not at any other time.

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