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The Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond

Hill stations are most beautiful during spring. With the snow rapidly melting away, the wind rising from the valley and the trees calling us outside to enjoy their shade, the surrounding becomes idyllic. It is in one such picturesque place that Rusty, the protagonist of Ruskin Bond’s The Room on the Roof, lives. An orphaned Anglo-Indian boy in the Dehradun of the 50s, Rusty yearns to break free from his guardians who want to make a proper Englishman out of him. But all Rusty wants is to venture beyond the European settlements of the town into the real India—to the local bazaar, to the cacophony of sounds and the assortments of life. So, one fine day, he does just that. And therein begins the metamorphosis of Rusty.

From being a mild-mannered English snob, he becomes an adventurous teenager in the company of his lively friends. From a life so protected, Rusty suddenly becomes the cynosure of all eyes. His friends Somi and Ranbir make him eat real Indian street food, and his employer’s son Kishen find in him, a true friend. A young teenager, Rusty himself goes through a gamut of emotions while growing up—he feels a wave of ecstasy after falling in love for the first time, and experiences inconsolable pain after losing his loved ones—all while renting out a small room in his employer’s house. So his room on the roof is not just a living space for Rusty. It is the symbol of his independence after crossing the threshold to make it into the brave new world.

The Room on the Roof gives a sneak-peak into Bond’s life as a 17-year-old, new to the charms of the world, and dreaming of unrealistic dreams. The book offers an insight into how Bond perceived the world around him—be it the colour of people’s skin or the clothes they wore or the food they ate during festivals.

Coupled with an engrossing narrative, the story of Rusty grappling with fervent hope unlocks a bagful of memories. Memories of the time when love was unencumbered by expectations, expectations were not barriers to friendships, and friendships were made in chaat shops or on the handlebars of bicycles. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could just relive those moments once more?

Well, jump right in into a pool of nostalgia and swim in Bond’s words, back to the time when we were all a bit like Rusty—planning our whole life inside a room in our minds; yet to break free from barriers, yet to know the joys and sorrows, and yet to appreciate books such as these.

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