Mr. Oliver’s Diary (which the author had nearly named Boys will be Boys) is a segment of the diary of a Prep School teacher (inspired by a real life character) that inadvertently fell in the hands of a student who forwarded it to an author. It spans a period of six months and is packed with a wholesome fare of an array of all-new memorable characters that have never appeared in Bond’s earlier writings and a range of school boy pranks that are refreshingly varied.
The diary commences with Mr. Oliver’s jottings of his agonizing twelve hour train journey as teacher-escort for over a hundred prep boys and concludes with an acknowledgement for his unrequited love by a fellow teacher which is ratified by their students. Interspersed is spur of the moment humour arising from commonplace characters and impromptu situations.
Ruskin Bond’s all-new characters include Mr. Christopher Oliver, a teacher with an alternating pair of wigs, both of which he eventually abandons; a Head Master who was always accompanied by a violin which he played very badly; a selectively deaf Nurse Babcock whose snoring kept others awake; Dr. Butcher who endeavored to live up to his name, a homicidal maniac of a barber and a horde of puckish schoolboys whose antics make for a laughter riot. Mother Nature too plays her part in the revelry and creates spontaneous humour as she causes damage without harm when the rooftop of the dorm blows off, a fallen tree traps the Headmaster and his wife in their cottage and the frogs organize a cacophonic orchestra.
The diary is penned by Ruskin Bond in characteristic simple, evocative language and is garnished with a pragmatic philosophy, frequently passed on by Mr. Oliver’s grandmother. Her pearls of wisdom: “A wise swimmer praises the sea, but hugs the shore” and “Not even a king can command the clouds”, besides Bond’s flip side views about why losers too should celebrate and his subtle distinction between loneliness and solitude make for intellectual enrichment. Cartoon illustrations by Anjali Nayar bring alive the content of the text and tickle the funny bone.
Mr. Oliver’s Diary is a must read for all Bond admirers, particularly school boys and those with an inclination towards Children’s Literature.