A Flight of Pigeons

by – Ruskin Bond

“We just look at the Mutiny, we don’t think about how the people would have lived in those times. Mr. Bond, in this novella, has got one of those unknown stories with a touch of fiction.”

A book review by –

Mridul Godha

About the Author Summary Important Characters and their Sketches My Opinion My Critical Opinion Suggestions for next year

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etter perceived as the Indian 'William Wordsworth', Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli in the then Punjab Province in the 1934. Born to a first generation British migrant, Bond spent most of his childhood in amidst Himalayas. He was brought up at different places included Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla. As customary in that period he went to England for primary studies. Although Bond was studying in England, his mind rested in India. He had forged intimate relationship with the Himalayas and longed for

year that his an

Bond started displaying his literary talent in England. He wrote his first novel named 'Room On The Roof' when he was all of 17 years. The book made him win prestigious 'John Llewellyn Rhys' Prize that is awarded to British Commonwealth Writers who are under the age of 30. The book was primarily based in and around Himalayas and was successful in capturing its beauty and ethos in a manner that was never tried before. Its sequel named 'Vagrants in the Valley' followed it. Riding on the success of these two novels, Ruskin took the journey back home. Ruskin Bond has now been writing for more than 5 decades. He has stressed more on the local elements of Himalayas in his writings. His writing style is distinct in a way that it tries to make reader understand the landscape and ethos through carefully mastered words. His writings have won him both tremendous critical acclaim as well as a long list of fans through out the literary world. Replete with unassuming humor and quiet wisdom, his thirty books manifest a that he hasfor nature and people. His mesmerizing descriptions about stories of children deep love written. the flora and fauna of Himalayas can not be missed in his 100 something short stories, essays, novels, and more than His works has inspired several generations of writers, authors and scriptwriters. His novel named 'The Flight of Pigeons' has been adapted into the acclaimed Merchant Ivory film Junoon. Another less known novel named 'The Room on the Roof' has been adapted in to a BBC produced TV series. Nevertheless his greatest achievement comes from the fact that several of his short stories from his collections have been incorporated in the school curriculum all over India. It includes jewels such as The Night Train at Deoli, Time Stops at Shamli and Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. In spite of all these


successes, Bond can be concluded today as a media-shy and reclusive literary genius. He spends his days with his adopted family at a place close to Dehradun.


Flight of Pigeons is set in Shahjahanpur, a small town 250 miles east of Delhi in India, during the revolt of 1857 against the British. The story is narrated by Ruth Labadoor, a young British girl, whose father gets killed as the revolt spreads to Shahjahanpur. She, her mother Mariam, and a few other surviving members of her family then get forcibly abducted by Javed Khan, a fiery pathan (true pathans -- as per the book -- are descendents of Afghan immigrants), who brings them to his house where he expresses his desire to marry Ruth. Mariam, who is worldly wise and resourceful, manages to persuade Javed Khan (not without a little bit of difficulty) to Ruth. wait for the outcome of the revolt to be decided before marrying The next one year in the life of the Labadoors is an emotional roller-coaster where on one hand they are showered with compassion and affection from almost all of Javed Khan's relatives (there are many interesting and funny anecdotes); on the other hand, they live in constant fear that if the British rule is not restored, Javed Khan will eventually have his way and marry Ruth. Ruskin Bond's style of storytelling is extremely plain and simple, but with an underlying humanity, and even the most vile characters are portrayed with a lot of sympathy and understanding. The book is based on true events and gives an interesting insight into the lives of both the British and Pathans in mid nineteenth century India. The book could have been a little longer (it’s barely 140 pages), but its still fun to read. Some passages of the book make humorous reading and also give an insight to the people of that time, especially their creativity uninfluenced by western education and Bollywood. “Having heard about his whereabouts, the second wife had a petition writer draw up a letter for her, which she asked me to read to her, as I knew Urdu. It went something like this – ‘O thou who hast vanished like mustard oil which, when absorbed by the skin, leaves only its odor behind; thou with the rotund form dancing before my eyes which were wont to stare at me vacantly; wilt thou still snap thy fingers at me when this letter is evidence of my unceasing thoughts of thee? Why did you call me your lado, your loved one, when you had no love for me? And why have you left me to the taunts of that stick of a woman whom you in your perversity used to call a precious stone, your Ratna? Who has proved untrue, you or I? Why have you sported thus with my feelings? Drown yourself in a handful of water, or return and make my hated rival an ornament for your neck, or wear her effigy nine times around your arm as a charm against my longings for you.’


The book is full of such dialogues and situations of quaint humor. Mr. Shashi Kapoor made the film Junoon out of this book but as is usual with movies made from books, it doesn’t do justice in presenting the main theme of the book.

Ruth Labadoor

Mariam Labadoor

Lala Ramjimal

Javed Khan



liked this book for two reasons. The first one is that this book was neither fiction nor non-fiction; rather it was in the middle of these two! Fiction books are usually about the high line imagination of the author who writes about perfect hero, perfect heroine, perfect villain and his perfect vampires. Non-fiction books are too dry and worn out to enjoy and read because you can’t actually get into the story. This novella was a mix of good humour, and also about the sufferings of the people in those times. I especially liked this because of the dialogues between the characters which never showed any accent of western styles. This proved that authors like Ruskin Bond totally lay themselves in the story while they write the book. The second reason why I liked the book was its education point. The ‘notes’ part in the book not only impressed me but also taught me a lot of things about Pathans and their reactions towards the British and their followers. If I were to rate this book out of five, I would rate it two-point five…Yes, there were many points that made this book an average one. I have jotted these points on the next page. Still, Mr. Ruskin Bond has got it once again with his simplicity and exuberant use of words. Hats off!



“Not so good…Not so bad”




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