The Night Train at Deoli & Other Stories – Book Review

"People often ask me why my style is so simple. It is, in fact, deceptively simple, for no two sentences are alike. It is clarity that I am striving to attain, not simplicity. Of course, some people want literature to be difficult and there are writers who like to make their readers toil and sweat. They hope to be taken more seriously that way. I have always tried to achieve a prose that is easy and conversational. And those who think this is simple should try it for themselves."

— Ruskin Bond.

Ruskin Bond's 'The Night Train at Deoli and Other Stories' takes you to a time long ago, a world away from now, tinged with nostalgia and that hint of melancholy that you feel on a winters night when the cold seeps into your bones and you face lost dreams and innocent hopes of childhood through the words written on the page.

The Night Train at Deoli & Other Stories
The Night Train at Deoli & Other Stories

For those willing to take a stroll through a bygone era, lost in the mire of urbanism and capitalism, the works of Ruskin Bond are a joy, taking you through the beautiful hills and meadows of India, delighting you with stories of love, loneliness, fondness, all with a hint of melancholic nostalgia, as you go through a time you have just missed by being born just a generation too late.

The Night Train of Deoli & Other Stories is one such book, full of rustic beauty and a certain theme of longing running through them, as you dream of the hills, of the incessant call from atop those misty mountains, with their cold air freezing you, and through his words, you are transported to the hearth-fire in a ramshackle hut, feeling as if you are listening to grandpa’s stories while you sip a cup of hot coffee made by grandma, watching the mists and winds roll along the highlands, painting the world in tones of wispy green and vibrant blue.

As the author himself mentions in the preface of the book, his stories are not about espionage, mystery, suspense or murder. Instead, these are simple stories of simple folk, living in the pure and unspoilt lands of the hills, forests, with their bazaars, all cradled in nature’s lap.

The stories are not only beautifully crafted, they are also poignantly done, and within the span of a couple of pages (the stories rarely run longer than 3-4 pages), Mr. Ruskin Bond is able to take your hand and bring you with him into his world, into the majestic foothills of the Himalayas, where he spent the majority of his childhood and teenage years, where he first forayed into the world of stories, with the mountain divulging their secrets to him and the winds whispering many-a-tales into his ears.

These are tales of a world unsullied, of an era which spoke not of murder and war and thrills, but of quietude, melancholy, wonder, longing, loneliness, and an unknown yearning from the depths of the heart.

The highest praise I can give this book is that it feels like one of the legendary Enid Blyton’s books, but instead of the United Kingdom, it is one set in the beautiful mountains of India.

If you are a first time reader, new to the art of reading, pick up this book, I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. And if you are an experienced reader who has yet to read one of Mr. Ruskin Bond’s delightful books, pick this one up, even connoisseurs yearn can do with the magic of his books.

Review by Pritesh Patil


Should government provide Unemployment allowance to unemployed young people?

I don’t think that allowances should be provided to unemployed people in a developing country like India. But answering the question with a simple yes or no is not easy. I would like to discuss pros and cons of both the aspects of the situation before coming to any conclusion.

Undoubtedly, Employment is a guaranteed under a right in India. If government is unable to fulfill its legal obligations under this act then it has to provide unemployment allowance. It can also be seen as an instrument of ensuring socio economic justice but this doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to it .This could be confined to the marginalized sections and minority groups like transgender etc who face severe discrimination .Also, it should depend on the economic status of unemployed person’s family. Other alternatives could be to impart skills with stipend so that both the economy and citizens benefit.

On the other hand, in a country like India with 1.32 billion population(most of which is unemployed in informal sector)an Act for unemployment allowance seems infeasible. But I think that skilling along with creating equivalent number of jobs is the logical way forward. Instead of providing employment allowances to unemployed, government can play an important role in creating a pool of employment opportunities. Though it is easier said than done .Also, in my opinion, unemployment allowance turns people lousy. It has been experienced in many European countries wherein people choose not to work and survive on allowance. I think that the solution is not practical for a country like India where population is burgeoning every year. Perhaps, this can be a good idea for rich countries with less population. If we start giving unemployment allowance India will be in debt within a few months. This is a good idea for rich countries with less population.

But the situation needs to be seen holistically. Unemployment allowance at the same time, is necessary as everyone including unemployed people have to feed their family. If you don’t give them allowance, they will find some other ways to make money be it legal or illegal. Government should know that a kid whose belly has swollen from hunger doesn’t care about their daddy’s work ethics. Here, the average daily worker is exploited to his last shred. Unemployment allowance seems like a good idea at such a time. It probably isn’t the best strategy for the long run ,but, till the time we don’t make better people, this seems to be the only way out. Though government has ESI scheme where unemployed persons can get some benefits. The ESI scheme introduced a limited version of unemployment insurance in 2005.The benefits were upgraded a bit later. Essentially, an insured person can get 50% of ones salary for upto 12 months or re employment, whichever is earlier.

But the question arises Where will the government pay for the allowances? We have barely been able to replenish our fiscal reserves this year .Allowances is not the way to go for a country like ours. Socialist countries like Venezuela have failed badly .It has oil reserves bigger than Saudi Arabia but socialism has taken a toll on its health, there inflation is more than 700%.I am not against the allowances if they work for a short term but the issue is that we don’t have enough reserves to scale up to the magnitude of people who are below the poverty line in our country. For a developing country, spearheading schemes through sovereign debt is very difficult. Just because india’s sovereign debt with respect to developed economies is low doesn’t mean that India is at convenience to take this route.

An outright yes or no, in my opinion, doesn’t provide a logical solution to the question asked.We must use a middle path,carefully tread,so that economy remains out of trouble and welfare also happens amidst diverse population.

Article by Vagisha Arora