A rainy day seemed like a perfect pick to start reading Ruskin Bond’s first ever novel “The Room on the Roof”. I was prompted to buy his debut book after being rather disappointed by “Landour Days”, a compilation of journal entries. But “The Room on the Roof” is a far cry from the non-fictional musings of an old man in the hills.
It’s the tale of a teenage boy called Rusty, who breaks free from the tyrannical reins of his British guardian and starts a new life under the guidance of his new-found friend in the town of Dehra. Set right after the independence, the book brings to life the simple adventures of teens living in the faint shadows of colonial rule; where the white man was still referred to as “sahib”. But Rusty is no sahib and his friends are endearing imps who make the reader smile with their antics.
Considering the novel was written in the first half of 20th century by a seventeen-year-old Ruskin, all the exchange between the teen boys has a refreshing warmth. Their camaraderie is palpable through the pages. The protagonist sees a slow, mature transformation from a shy, lonely boy to a independent young man with a close-knit circle of friends. He even has a very Bollywood-style whirlwind romance, which escalates quite quickly.
At the heart of it, “The Room of the Roof” is about male friendships and how a cycle ride could change your life. Ruskin Bond’s storytelling is lucid, even comforting, like a quilt soothing you on a cold rainy day.