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THE STORY OF LOST FRIENDS ABOUT THE POEM The poet presents a panorama of his childhood days in this

long autobiographical poem. The scenes change as rapidly as the frames in a movie. The memory of his life with his father, his departure for boarding school when his parents marriage broke up, and the subsequent happenings once he left the school are the subject matter of this poem. It was his dream to go to England with his father at the end of the Second World War. The death of his father shattered that dream. His life with his step-father and mother was not a very pleasant one. Adventures and experiences abound during those years. The uncaring parents made him look for comfort and happiness elsewhere. He found friends elsewhere and spent time with them. All those experiences made him bold about facing life. He puts the lessons learnt humorously in the poem. He went to the mountains perhaps for a long stay, but his step-father brought him back. He seems to be thankful to his step-father for bringing him home, otherwise the Shakespearean works and the life of a writer would have been out of his reach. He remembers all those childhood experiences of his life. PARAPHRASE Part I Lines 1-18 The poet tells the story of his childhood. As a boy he stood near the railway tunnel in the forest, touching the hot rail track to feel it trembling as the noon train approached. With a whistle the green-gold train emerged out of the tunnel and went past. Thus the trains rolled on every day, hundreds of people bidding good bye. The boy longs for his childhood self. He has loved him always and looked for him everywhere. All these years he has been looking for him at the windows of trains, in cities, in villages, beside the sea, in the mountains and among crowds in far off places. When he failed in his attempt, he returned to the forest to watch the windows of some passing trains. Part II Lines 19-28 His father took him along with him to visit the ruins of old forts and palaces. They stayed in a tent near the tomb of Humayun surrounded by old trees. Now there are multistoried buildings built around it, which will eventually become ruins in the future. The father told the son that he could explore the ruins when trees grew there once again. After all, there had existed seven cities before at the same site. However, nothing his father said would bring his mother back. His mother had left his father for another man. Lines 28-49 His father took him by a narrow gauge train to study in a boarding school in Simla. The train went through many tunnels and both sides were covered with trees and bushes. He visited the boy at school during the holidays. It was the time of the Second World War and his father promised to take him to England when the war was over. His father died soon afterwards and the boy was sent to his mother and stepfather at Dehra Dun from school. Contrary to his expectations there was no one at the station to receive him at Dehra Dun. So he took a tonga and went in search of a house with lichchi trees as a sign to identify the house where his mother lived. Failing to identify the house, he returned to the railway station where he found his mother. She had expected the train to be late as usual but the train had been on time that day. Lines 50-61 When he reached home, he found that he had a little half brother. The child was left in the care of servants while his parents went out hunting or dancing at a night-club where drunken men sought sexual favours from women. The boy remained alone in the house with his little brother, the servants PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 1 of 9

and the books. He valued his father's letters and kept them in his trunk. In his loneliness he wrote to his father, but did not post the letter fearing that it might be returned to the sender. Lines 62-78 The boy made friends with the children of the neighbourhood and climbed the guava tree of Seth Hari Kishor who had gone on a pilgrimage to the Ganga. The guavas were ripe and the boys were eager to climb the tree and enjoy the fruit. The two of them met while climbing up the tree, they argued and fought with each other and came tumbling down on the grass. Their fight brought in the gardener and the boys ran away and disappeared across the field. The boys each asked why the other did not go home. For one his mother was not at home, and for the other his mother was at home. Part III Lines 78-95 The narrator tells us that the other boy's mother was Burmese and his father had been an English soldier killed in the war. They were waiting for the war to get over. Everyday they walked beyond the garden. Birds flew above the yellow mustard fields. The boys found a pool and they promised each other that when they grew up, they would meet again at the pool. They took the pledge in blood. They returned home when darkness set in. Lines 96-116 Once when the narrator's parents were busy partying, he decided to stay at his friend's home. They went to see a film and returned late. At the suggestion of his friend's mother he spent the night with them. He had never shared a bed with anyone except father and that night he stayed awake appreciating the warmth of sharing a bed with his friend. The next morning, as they were at breakfast his parents came and scolded him for staying out. He was taken away forcefully in the middle of the breakfast. His friend felt hurt and he was too proud to explain so a reserve grew between them. The following month the boy heard that his friend had been sent to an orphanage in Kalimpong Part IV Lines 117-132. The narrator remembered the old banyan tree whose branches grew over the broken wall. While the adults slept, he wandered about his mother's garden in winter. He looked at the banyan tree and realised that giant trees had few friends and the tree, like all great persons, remained hidden by the hanging roots. Although a trespasser on the trees privacy, he went closer to the banyan tree and touched its bark. He could hear the song of the tree and felt an affinity with it. Lines133-149 The spirit of the tree became the boys friend he could feel the throbbing of its heart. It was his first tutor, who taught him the value of stillness. His other tutor was the tonga-man who came along the road under the banyan tree in his pony-cart and looked up and enquired about the resident on the banyan tree. The boy told him that he did. The next time the tonga driver asked if he was lonely on the tree. He replied that he felt lonely sometimes when the tree was thinking. The tonga driver said that he never thought and therefore the boy would never feel lonely with him. The driver left the place promising to give him a ride someday. That day, the boy learnt a lesson in keeping promises from the tonga man. Part V Lines 150-156 From life around the tree to life with the tonga driver was a sudden but easy change. The tonga driver spat betel-juice the length and breadth of the road and he claimed that he had mastered this art and he did it with authority. It is good to excel in something, the poet remarks. Lines 157-165 The tonga man sacrificed his opportunity to earn when he took the boy for a ride. He did not regret that. He was of the opinion that if a girl asked money for a favour, one should bargain hard with her and then give her more than what she asked for. He borrowed money from the boy to buy a PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 2 of 9

present for his mistress. He admitted that his lavish style was the reason for his failure. Still, he believed that fail well was better than succeeding badly. Lines 166-180 The boy remembers riding in the tonga along the winding road to the river-bed at high speed, the wind ruffling his hair, the dust rising, dogs barking, Bansi singing; it seemed as if the tonga was about to collapse, with the wheels creaking, the seat shifting and the hood slipping off. All this seemed like music to his ears, and looking back on his boyhood experiences, he feels that one gets nostalgic when one crosses the age of forty, when even unhappiness appears attractive. Lines 181-195 His next refuge was the cemetery. The mango trees grew well, getting good fertilizer made up of the bones of long dead people. Here English officers, missionaries and common men rested in their graves. Some of the tombs looked like temples or cenotaphs; one even looked like a miniature Taj Mahal There were the graves of many relatives, including one of Uncle Henry Henry C. Wagstaff, the man who translated the Gospels into the Pashtu language and was murdered by his chowkidar. His epitaph read 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant'. (Note the ironical humour implied here.) Lines 181-203 One day the narrator saw the gardener digging a grave complaining that he had not been given enough warning. There had been two deaths the past week and without warning, here was another one. The gardener felt that he had a lot of work during the summer when there were many deaths due to cholera but in winter people should make the effort to keep alive. It was not the season of death. Lines 204-231 In his childhood the boy watched the trains passing by on the railway lines. There was a leper colony across the railway lines. The boy did no know that they were lepers but he knew there was something different about them. Some of the lepers were disfigured yet some were beautiful. The boy made friends with some of the children and played with them and won their marbles. One day the boys parents found him playing near the leper colony. His mother scolded the lepers, and they behaved as if they were guilty of some crime. He was taken back home and was given a bath and his clothes were destroyed. The servants refused to touch him for days. He put the marbles he had won from the leper children in his stepfather's cupboard hoping that he might be infected with leprosy. Part VI Lines 232-250 The narrator does not remember how he met Manohar, a fifteen-year-old boy with a gentle smile who worked in a hotel. They walked together and Manohar told the narrator his story. He belonged to the hills and promised to take him to his home there, but they did not have enough money for that. So the narrator sold his bicycle for thirty rupees and left a note on the dining table stating that he was going away that they were not to worry all the time hoping that they would and that he would come back when he had grown up. Lines 251-268 They crossed the river Ganga at Hardwar and walked up the stony footpath to the mountains which the pilgrims took. Not everyone who went up the mountains returned. Some actually did come to die at such a sacred place. The two of them went up the hill and spent the night at an inn. They wrapped themselves in a single blanket that the boy had brought along with him, but it was still cold. It was not the season for pilgrims and therefore there were only a few local people drinking country liquor at the inn. The boys also drank and listened to the stories of an old soldier from that area. He talked of the women he had come to know while he had been stationed at Rome during the first world war. Lines 269-284 The old soldiers memorable experiences earned him many a drink at various inns. Manohar slept soundly but the narrator spent the night watching the bright star through the window, and PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 3 of 9

making a wish on it, even knowing that his wish would not come true. The next morning they walked down the valley above a river. They walked for a long time and late at night they reached Manohar's house. Part VII Lines 285-297 The village chief, enjoying the winter sunshine sitting on a string cot, said that what we call 'death' is not death but a summing-up of life. He also said that although he had heard of the beauty of the sunset in the Himalaya, how could he appreciate it as it was not food and food was their primary concern. The wise words of the old village chief stayed with the narrator. Lines 298-309 The narrator felt that had he stayed there longer, he would have longed for worldly comforts. When hungry they ate wild berries or milked a goat. He did not desire to go home. Had he remained in the hills, he could have grown up like a village boy, looking after the grazing sheep and cattle. In the meantime, the collected works of Shakespeare would have gathered dust in Dehra Dun. However, his stepfather sent his office manager for him and had him brought him from the mountains. Lines 313-322 As he left, he looked back and saw Manohar waving goodbye. The poet loved very much, and since then he has looked for Manohar everywhere. Manohar is a symbol of the poet himself and his lost youth that he looks back upon and remembers with nostalgia. NOTES Then outgrinning dark The coming and going of the train represents the passage of time. The green and gold coloured train appears to the boys imagination like a dragon, spitting fire and making a thunderous noise. Lines 9-18: And the trainsome passing train This was how the trains rolled out everyday. The boy would see hundreds of people coming or going or running away, with hurried goodbyes and farewells. The poet misses the bright face of a young boy that he looked for everywhere. tomb of Humayun: the tomb of Humayun, the Mughal emperor, in Delhi thorn-apple - Datura stramonium, also called Jimson Weed, Jamestown Weed, Thorn Apple, Angel's Trumpet, and Zombie's Cucumber is a common poisonous weed in the Nightshade Family. engine having palpitations the sound of the engine beating rapidly like heart beat as it as making the effort to climb the hills To Simla. Boarding -school - Ruskin Bon studied at Bishop Cotton School, a boarding school at Simla. He is narrating the story of his own school days here. when the War is over a reference to the Second World War(1939-45). Ruskin Bond studied at Bishop Cotton School during the Second World War. A long journey through a dark tunnel it may mean the train journey that he had to undertake to reach his mothers new house. It may, allegorically, also mean an unhappy period in his life that he had to go through at this time Dehra - Dehra Dun, the capital of Uttaranchal. Ruskin Bond grew up in Dehra Dun. which made me a hundred - seeing his little half brother he felt that he was a hundred years old. It is an exaggerated way of saying that in front of his little brother he felt that he was a grown up. Casino name of a night club where people went to dance Tommies and Yanks - a term used to denote British and American soldiers 'Return to sender... the letter would be returned to the sender as the addressee could not be found. This would show Bond that his father was really gone, and he was not ready to face that fact yet. (Always sweeter when stolen) eating stolen fruit has its own pleasure Blackberry eyes eyes as dark as blackberries PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 4 of 9

Ragged December grass - in December grass turns dry and yellowish due to the winter weather. Loafed wandered around aimlessly Ringed pheasants - The common or ringed pheasant, a popular game bird, the male of which has coppery plumage, with a dark-green head and neck, and red wattles around its eyes Dipped swooped down Sweet salty kiss While the promise made was sweet, the actual taste of their blood was salty Freshet a fresh water streamlet Nicking making a small cut Cow dust time twilight (godhuli) Trudged walked slowly and tiredly Gone with the Wind - the classic Hollywood movie made from Margaret Mitchell's novel of the same name Orphanage at Kalimpong Probably Dr. Grahams Home, a school for Anglo-Indian orphans in Kalimpong, a town near Darjeeling in the hills of north Bengal. outhouse - a building built near to or up against a main building giants have few friends a huge tree like the banyan tree has no equal in size, therefore, it has no friends. aerial roots - the roots of the banyan tree hanging in the air. pillared den - the roots of the banyan tree look like pillars and many such pillars make a den or home tonga a light two-wheeled Indian vehicle drawn by a horse rattletrap - (colloq) a contemptuous term for a rickety vehicle contraption vehicle, in this case, the tonga All this was music - anything one is very glad to hear ragtime raga - ragtime music is a style of music developed by black musicians in North America with tunes that are not on regular beats. Here the poet refers to Bansis humming a tune and the rattling sound of the tonga as ragtime music. Nostalgia sentimental longing for bygone days Memsahibs - in colonial India a title of address for a married European woman. (ma'am and sahib) dusty splendour - dead bodies turn to dust in the grave. Here the reference is to the important Englishmen, such as Colonels, Collectors, Magistrates etc. turned to dust and resting in those magnificent graves. English dust - English people Ganges soil- a metaphor for India cenotaph- public monument built in memory of particular people who died in war, often with names written on it. Taj - reference to the Taj Mahal Gospels holy Christian texts like the Bible Pashtu - an official language spoken in Afghanistan, also spoken in parts of Pakistan Chowkidar - (Hindi) a watchman 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' - a quote from the Bible (Mathew 25: 21). Note the humour implied in the line, as it is not clear if the poet is applauding the deed of the master or the servant. epitaph - a tombstone inscription. Cavity grave Cholera a water-borne disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which are typically ingested by drinking contaminated water, or by eating improperly cooked fish, especially shellfish, a deadly disease at that time Leper a person who has leprosy


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Leprosy also known as Hansen's disease, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae which can lead to disfiguration of the body or skin. quizzical- questioning, puzzled doors of Vishnu Hardwar local brew country liquor first Great War - reference to the First World War (1914-1918) face pickled in the suns - a metaphorical usage for wrinkled face hookah - traditional Middle Eastern or South Asian device for smoking, which operates by waterfiltration and indirect heat. It can be used for smoking many substances, such as tobacco, opium and herbal fruits Treasure a patch of winter sunshine - enjoy sitting in the sun to get warm in winter But some grew old at their mother s breasts: their difficulties and poverty aged them before they could bloom While the Collected Works..dust in Dehra his education became suspended CRITICAL APPRECIATION The poet recalls the varied experiences of his life during his early growing up years. The poem opens with the vivid memory of his life with his father and his visits to forts and palaces along with his father. His mother, leaving his father for another man, forces the father to send the boy to a boarding school in Simla. The sudden death of his father sends him to his mother and step-father at Dehra Dun. His life at Dehra Dun is not pleasant either. He spends most of his time outside the house. When the two friends enquire why they do not go home, the answer they give each other is humorous but it points to a bitter truth. 'There's no one there, my mother's out'/ 'And mine's at home.' The poet's friendship with the banyan tree is symbolic of the loneliness that he went through his life. He explores the giant tree and in the silence, he could hear the song of the tree. The spirit of the tree becomes his friend. The banyan tree is his first tutor in life. Bansi, the tonga driver, is his second tutor. He could spit longer than any man. That sums up what the tonga man is, but the poet learns a very practical lesson: 'It is natural for a man to strive to excel/At something; he spat with authority.' The tonga man's failures in life makes the boy realize: 'A man who fails well is better than one who succeeds badly.' It is evident throughout the poem that the poet has a great sense of humour. He speaks of the mango trees at the cemetery nourished by the bones of dead; he sees small temples and mini Taj Mahals in the cemetery. The poet's quote from the Bible - 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' - for the missionary who was killed by his own chowkidar fills even a tragic moment with a sense of wit and humour. The overworked grave digger-cum-gardener complains at the behaviour of the people dying without giving him sufficient warning and time to keep the graves ready. There is ample scope for wit and humour in his thoughts and actions. The eternal tendency of human nature to reason out is evident when he says : 'It isn't even the season for dying. There's enough work all summer, when cholera's about Why can't they keep alive through the winter?' The poet's interaction with the leper children and his mother's arrogant behaviour to the leper parents and their reaction evokes a sense of pathos in the minds of the reader. The boy's decision to put the marbles in his stepfather's cupboard shows the intensity of his hatred for him, in contrast to the way he PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 6 of 9

treasured the letters from his father and kept them in a trunk and even wrote a letter to him but did not post it fearing it might come back. This shows the gulf in his feelings towards his father and stepfather. His running away with Manohar after selling his bicycle and leaving a note for his parents also points his unhappiness at home. The growing up boy goes through more challenging experiences - staying out in the open, drinking alcohol, climbing mountains and listening to experiences of a variety of people. In spite of his hatred towards his stepfather, he is thankful to him for bringing him back to his structured world. Looking back he is nostalgic and is grateful for what he has gone through in life. He says: 'Even unhappiness acquired a certain glow.' The poem moves through innumerable incidents in his life, most of them bitter when they occurred, but he is able to rise above those individual incidents and the feelings they evoked and is able to see them in a different perspective after he has crossed the age of forty. That makes it a marvellous experience. The lucid style, the choice of words and the flow with which the scenes change, all attract the readers and let them see it as if in a film. One may find flickers of one's own childhood and phases of growing-up in the poem. It is an easy poem to read, but evokes a range of emotions and a great intensity of feelings. SOME POETICAL TECHNIQUES USED BY THE POET 1. The poem is like a memoir. Episodes are related one after the other like a moving train of memory. 2. Notes are like a diary entry. 3. Seems like a dramatic monologue in some of the scenes; esp. episodes with his father. 4. Written like a drama in verse, with acts and scenes changing as one go s along. 5. There's a conversational tone, a kind of casualness of approach to incidents. 6. Sensory images create vivid imagery. (a) hands touching the hot rails, waiting for them to tremble. (b) "the whistle of the engine hung on the forest's silence." (c) "a green gold dragon." (d) "shining dark. 7. Pithy phrases become powerful (a) "tomorrow's ruins" (for the multi storeyed blocks) (b) "Wars are never over." (c) "always sweeter when stolen." (d) "Time was suspended for a time." (e) stayed awake with the niceness of it. (f) "I fell into life." (g) "dusty splendour (graveyard scene). (h) "Not death, but a summing up of life." (i) "Who can eat sunsets? 8. Transferred epithet. (a) "grinning dark. (b) dusty splendour. (c) "the engine having palpitations." (d) "throbbing heart." 9. Personification PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 7 of 9

"The tree is thinking. The language is simple and the diction clear, it is not difficult to interpret at all. Only there is a sensitiveness of approach expressed by lines of unequal length. CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE "The Story of Lost Friends" will always be evergreen. It can be called a young boy's pocket book. The young today can learn valuable lessons from the way the young Ruskin Bond faced his life, and grew up. He used his writings as escape from sorrow and as a medium to grieve for his losses. He has used the beauty of the hills as a chance to escape from the bustle of the world. Ruskin Bond has enthralled millions for four decades and will continue to do so. The Story of Lost Friends' teaches the young the value of friendship and the human element in a friend. When a friend tumbles out of a guava tree and they are chased by the gardener, a bond is formed. 'Time was suspended for a time," and they dreamed of the times when they would be men. Bond has shown that friends need not be only human beings sympathy can ooze from any comer. The Banyan tree openly embraced the boy and "The spirit of the tree became my friend." This is one more universal message, very relevant today alone are thy natural surroundings as thyself 'The Story of Lost Friends' teaches the world the value of honesty and of honouring promises. The simple tonga-man, Bansi, had promised the boy a ride in his tonga, and gave the boy a heavenly time. The contraption rattled, nearly breaking up, but "All this was music,' because this was the music of love. "And the daytime raga lingers" in his mind. It teaches that life should be lived well, for when one is forty, Looking back on boyhood years. Even unhappiness acquired a certain glow." Another universal fact that the poem highlights is that death is an equaliser, it levelled the British by mingling the English flesh with the Ganges soil. 9. Personification "The tree is thinking. It preaches the sermon of "love your brother and your neighbour" by showing how easily Bond had fallen into an easy companionship with the lepers. All that friendship demands is an open heart and a loving hand. Manohar is the ultimate example who fulfilled every nook and comer of the lonely boy's heart with love. They were poor and Bond often went hungry, but he never missed home. Ruskin Bond has penned the moments of his life so tenderly that we adore them. The final lesson relevant to today's world is to face life and not be afraid of the trials. Remember, the better you are, the more trails come your way. CORE POINTS PC/TSRS-DLF/ENG-XII/06 Page 8 of 9

1. The boy used to stand near railway lines waiting for the train to come out of the dark tunnel. He was looking for a bright face at the window of the trains, and in all the places he could think of cities, villages, sea-side, mountains and crowds. 2. Remembers moments with his father-exploring ruins of old forts and palaces; plus living in a tent among old trees. Cannot understand why his mother left his father for another. 3. Is sent to a Boarding School in Simla. Father promises to come in holidays and take him to England after the war got over. But instead of the war getting over, his father died. Is sent back to his mother. Journeys through a dark tunnel. 4. No one met him at the station. His train arriving on time upset their schedule. New home, new baby in a new pram, greet him. Is left alone with the servants and the baby for company. Mother and Mr. H. went hunting or danced at the Casino. Read and re-read books and letters he had written to his father and not posted for fear of it being returned to the sender. . 5. Went to Seth Hari Kishor's guava orchard. Ripe fruits tempted him to steal some, and he made a friend with one who was already up in the trees. The friendship bloomed and time stood still. The two sealed a pledge of meeting again by the guava orchard, where they played, by nicking their fingers and kissing them. The friendship got over, when he stayed over one night after a movie show, and his parents made a scene, the next morning. A month later the friend left for Kalimpong. 6. Bonds with an old Banyan tree in the faded garden of his mother's home. He called the tree his first tutor, because it taught him the value of stillness and silence. 7. The next friend was Bansi, the tonga-man, who drove a ratting contraption which was nearly falling apart. He taught Bond the value of keeping promises, because he had promised the boy a ride in his cart, and honoured it. It was a heavenly ride and he felt a deep companionship with the man. 8. He remembers the shady cemetery with healing mango trees, nourished by bones of the Britishers. In dusty splendour the British dust mingled with Ganges soil. Saw the gardener digging frames and grumbling, that the people died without prior notice. 9. Near the railway line he came in contact with the lepers and made friends with the leper children. He played marbles with them, and when it was discovered, was taken home in disgrace. . 10. How he met Manohar the poet did not remember, but lovingly recalled how gently he held his hand and promised to take him home when he want back. He did, and the poet learned valuable lessons of life. Though he often went hungry, as Manohar's people were poor, Bond never missed home. It was nice of his stepfather to have searched for him and call him back. But he deeply missed Manohar and has been looking for him ever since.


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