Fosterganj by Ruskin Bond takes you to a fictional hill town in 1960s & helps you get lost in a world before social-media. What pleasantly surprised me was how this 2013 book reminded me of Bond’s first book, the one he wrote as a 17-year-old. There’s an old world rustic charm to his writing & every little story in the book is simple, yet endearing. However, it’s not a collection of stories, but a novel where a writer recalls his stay in the fictional town and several mini-adventures connected to the place.
While Fosterganj might not be a real place, Bond sets it close to Mussorie, the Indian district he has spent most of his life in. It’s easy to believe that perhaps all the characters are loosely based on people he has met in real life too. Each character has a unique touch to them, which makes it easy to imagine the settings in the narrative. I started reading this book in a train and it was just the perfect kind of thing to read by the window.
The main protagonist doesn’t have a name. Readers are just told that he is a struggling writer who goes to the hills to seek some inspiration. Despite declaring that Fosterganj is the kind of place where nothing ever happens, there are quite a few strange occurrences and amusing events that he encounters during his brief stay. Interesting enough to fill up a whole book and have the reader hooked till the last page.
The last paragraph of the book sums things pretty nicely –
“I decided to write this account of the friends I made there – a baker, a banker, a pickpocket, a hare-lipped youth, an old boozer of royal descent, and a few others – to remind myself that there had been such a place, and that it had once been part of my life”.
It’s a simple charming book to pick up and read on a lazy winter day. Don’t expect anything deep, dark or dramatic.