Ruskin Bond’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” as An Antidote to Lockdown Gloom

·4-min read

Ruskin Bond wants people to look at the world around them in his latest, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Through the lines, “And when all the wars are over, a butterfly will still be beautiful,” he wants us to appreciate the small things in life.

A collection of stories loosely based on his own life with humorous observations and illuminating vignettes, this book is necessary reading at a time when the pandemic has claimed lakhs of lives and brought the world to its knees. Through his book, Bond offers alternatives to the overbearing atmosphere of negativity that we find ourselves surrounded with too often these days.

Through his book, Bond offers alternatives to the overbearing atmosphere of negativity that we find ourselves surrounded with too often these days.

Mental health deterioration, frustration, and depression have come to define life in the age of the coronavirus. The sheer volume of SOS calls on social media or the apathy of the government toward a crumbling nation or the genocide in Palestine has turned into a nightmare. Here, Bond’s words act as a salve, or at least, lend some courage to live through the day. He talks about everyday things that we pay little attention to – eating fried tomatoes, as eggs were not available during the lockdown, and finding joy in it. This is just one of the reasons why I took to the book. Reading about the mundane offers a different perspective to life; spotting beauty in the routine can be truly delightful. Something as simple as enjoying one’s favourite breakfast and being thankful for it can enrich our lives in ways we can’t even imagine.

Yet, Bond doesn’t turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering around us. He reflects on how the pandemic brought fear and panic into our homes, including his own, in his lockdown journals written between April and May last year. He observes with joy how flora and fauna have been reclaiming spaces in the absence of human activity during the lockdown. This is not surprising considering how he laments the disappearance of entire forests for concrete - “This, the only green planet as far as we know, is looking less green by the day. There will be many Pompeiis.”

Reading about the mundane offers a different perspective to life; spotting beauty in the routine can be truly delightful.

Parallely, he also talks about his recovering friend, and the prospect of work-from-home for the blue-collared work sphere, which includes his publishers, and how that ushered in a change unimaginable in the pre-pandemic world. When he notes the intrusion this has caused in our personal lives, where even weekends are dedicated to work, I can’t seem to recall the last time I took a much-deserved break.

But the biggest intruder in this time period has been the television. With some justified alarm, Bond observes that we seem to have forgotten the world outside the TV or the Internet, where gory, violent scenes of corruption and warfare are all too common. For many of us who have become more dependent on the screen than ever before, he advises us to break away. He prescribes watching TV in the morning for the explicit purpose of staying updated. But watching the news before going to sleep is a ripe recipe for nightmares, or troubled sleep at the very least. I couldn’t agree more.

Rather, he insists on reading poetry every night – he calls it food for the soul; growing flowers in gardens or window sills is your fleeting chance at happiness. While he finds succour in seeing the remnants of a forest on the edge of Landour from his window, we can also savour the sight of the setting sun or the fresh smell of flowers from our home gardens.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the antidote I needed in this pandemic

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the antidote I needed in this pandemic. The frustration of static life is now getting to me, like it is to everyone else. Work seems insurmountable. Amid all the chaos of everyday life, reading the book made me feel calmer. Especially at a time when it seems impossible to not be perpetually bogged down.

Ruskin Bond egged me on to look at the silver lining. Now, I enjoy the bite of ginger in my omelette and spend more time on the terrace in the presence of my mother’s potted plants. Being underneath the sky rather than a concrete ceiling can be liberating. I’ve started taking note of the small things I’d take for granted – the chirping of the birds, the gentle gust of wind, the shadow of leaves on the wall. Most importantly, I don’t scroll Instagram before sleeping. Instead, I enjoy the comforts of some light music in a dark room – my own little escape. Surprisingly, I sleep better. And I have no one but Bond and his “It’s A Wonderful Life” to thank.

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