Dust on the Mountain
Ruskin Bond
Anitha Balachandran
age group: 
7+ yrs
Number of pages: 
India coming of age Himalayas home Ruskin Bond growing up nature trees

Longing as an emotion, is simple. The longing for the familiar and for home, even more so. However, putting down this emotion in a way that can make the reader feel that bittersweet tug towards a home that is not even theirs is not an easy task. If there is one story teller in the landscape of Indian children’s literature who can perfectly capture such a feeling without being unnecessarily over sentimental or pandering, it’s Ruskin Bond.

In ‘Dust on the Mountain’ we meet Bisnu and his family during a scorching Himalayan summer that is threatening their peaceful lives. Bisnu bravely decides to head to Mussorie in search of work and must soon come to terms with the path he chooses for himself. On this path he meets many interesting characters that flit in and out of the pages but Nature remains the most important character throughout the story. From the all-consuming forest fires, the barren river banks and hills left for dead, and the faceless cityscape to the vast grandeur of the mountains, the dust ridden roads and even the absentee monsoon, a keen young reader will definitely notice the numerous fierce warnings that rail against the wanton destruction of the world that surrounds us and our role within it.

The language in the book moves quickly and simply, packing an enormous punch while using short, quick sentences. With over a hundred stories published, a lesser story teller might have lost the ability to grip readers and immerse them wholly into their tales but whether it’s your first or your fiftieth Ruskin Bond story what will always grab your heartstrings is the simplicity and frankness with which he deals with emotions and situations that make us quintessentially “us”.

The theme of simplicity continues with the wonderfully elegant illustrations that can be found throughout the book. The delicate beauty of the pictures that are peppered throughout the pages and even the light wash of watercolours when a picture wouldn’t suffice is a thoughtful touch that seems to add to the sometimes melancholy but always lovely story.

If there is one rite of passage that any Indian bookworm must go through, let reading a Ruskin Bond be it. And if there is one story that could be used to teach a young child about growing up, our place in the world, and the simple magic of leaving home so that you can one day return, then let ‘Dust on the Mountain’ be it.

Reviewed by Sanaya Fernandes