A Book on Simple Living

A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills by Ruskin Bond

Seeking inspiration from his varied experiences in the hills, Bond renders an endearing narration of the seemingly insignificant things that make life worth living.
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‘Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much.’

Whenever I miss the mountains, I pick up Ruskin Bond’s A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills. It makes me want to go to the hills in the quest for a simple life, leaving behind the inconveniences of urban living. This is exactly what this book does for a Ruskin Bond fan. For the uninitiated, it is a great starting point and may very well be viewed as the author’s personal diary with valuable insight into his days of solitude and company, surrounded by nature, the hills and the mountains. It is a progression of sketches observed and recorded from Bond’s own life, written as poems and anecdotes.

‘This much I can tell you. For all its hardships and complications, life is simple’.

Ruskin Bond adopts a way of simplicity in his thoughts, words and life in general. Seeking inspiration from his varied experiences in the hills, Bond renders an endearing narration of the seemingly insignificant things that make life worth living. These vignettes from his life in the hills are filled with the sounds of birds, scents of flowers, wonderful vistas of the valley and the touch of clear mountain air.

Small anecdotes, observations, journal entries and portrayals of his life and memories of the hills make the book a pleasurable read. Bond does not preach about the benefits of simple living but makes us aware—in a subtle manner—of the little things that make life beautiful. Like small flowers that bloom between the cracks of a wall or the solace of taking a walk through a forest. Most importantly, it reminds us to analyse and reorient our relationship with nature and take the time to connect with ourselves.

‘Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless, and you will never feel lonely.’

Bond’s astute ability to describe the small and mundane aspects of life with such beauty and simplicity is what makes this book unforgettable. He reflects on the joys of solitude and the pleasure of deriving inner calm from the simplest of things, like an afternoon nap, watching the evolving sky, the gentle rustle of leaves or the sound of a gushing stream. Bond guides us to the window of his cosy little cottage overlooking the valley and takes us on his blissful adventures with the ladybird, swallows, the visiting field mice, the deodar trees dancing to the tune of the winds and the flowing streams. Bond writes about every little delight of life—plants, birds, seasons, his table by the window, the hills, the flowers and the friendships that fade.

‘A cherry tree bowed down by the night’s rain suddenly rights itself, flinging pellets of water in my face. This, too, is happiness.’

Just like in his other books, the language is simple, which helps readers feel the way he feels. He shares his moments of joy, pride and satisfaction, along with his hours of sickness, heartbreak and misery. The important part, according to Bond, is to continue living a tranquil life after those moments have passed. The book serves as a constant reminder to pause and appreciate the little things around us, like the way the leaves shine under the morning sun or the comfort of a steaming cup of tea on a rainy day.

‘And when all the wars are over, a butterfly will still be beautiful.’

On almost every other page, you come across a sentence or quote so heartfelt, you have to read it twice to let the beautiful words hit home. In as little as 150 pages, Bond leaves you with so many thoughts in retrospect on love, nature and creating harmony within oneself. At the very least, you will be left with a smile on your face. It reminds me of my childhood days, playing in the shades of Gulmohar trees, swimming in the pond at my grandparents’ house and watching the rain pour from the window in my room.

Bond muses about nature, imagination, change and the pleasures of the mind and body. The way he transforms every experience into a sensual affair makes Bond an extraordinary writer and human—one who pays equal respect to an old companion and a mynah perched on his windowsill.

‘I like to think that I have become a part of this mountain, this particular range, and that by living here for so long, I am able to claim a relationship with the trees, wild flowers, even the rocks that are an integral part of it.’

If this book isn’t a testimony of a life well-lived, I don’t know what is.

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