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Understanding Ecological Consciousness in Ruskin Bond’s Short Stories: An Ecocriticism Perspective

Dr. Begum Farida Alam

Dr. Begum Farida Alam, is an alumnus of the Department of English of Pub Kamrup College in the Session, 1996-1999. Currently she has been serving as an Asstt. Professor, Dept. of English of Goreswar College.

INTRODUCTION:

Ecocriticism is a post modern theory.  It is the study of literature and the environment from an interdisciplinary point of view.  In ecocriticism, literature examines the subject of nature in various ways and at the same time it shows its concern for the environmental crisis.  In a nutshell, it is the study of the relationship between literature and the natural environment.  Though man and nature are two separate entities, yet they are one and nobody can set them apart. Literature and nature are very close to each other.  They have a close relationship.  By textualising the analysis of these two components, the post modern writers are trying to understand their relationship.

AIMS OF ECOCRITICISM MOVEMENT:

The word “Ecocriticism” first appeared in the essay “Literature and Ecology, An Experiment in Ecocriticism” by William Rueckert in 1978.  But the term remained inactive until the 1989 Western Literature Association meeting when Cheryll Glotfelty received the term and instantly worked for its use in the critical field which was later used as ‘the study of nature writing. In its initial stage, the term ‘Ecocriticism’ had to undergo a series of difficulties and did not get recognition in the field of literary theory.  But in present time, it has been well recognized and well accepted as a literary theory all over the world.  In connection with Ecocriticism, there are some other terms such as environmental literary criticism, green cultural studies, and eco-poetics, etc., which are frequently used.  Ecocriticism encourages people to think seriously about the ethical dilemmas posed by the environmental crisis and also as to how language and literature transmit values without profound ecological implications.

In literature, scholars have been celebrating nature until the recent past, but in the present scenario, the crisis in nature is getting center place and is well analysed in literature.  Writers are very much concerned about the threat that nature has encountered today.  In the present article, some selected short stories of Ruskin Bond are discussed which throws light on the writer’s concern for the environmental problems that are caused by the human being.  Ruskin Bond, a versatile writer who tries to focus the hazard that nature has to face in present time.  A number of issues related to nature are well focused in his stories.  In the name of development what actually is going on is well narrated in his creative works.

RUSKIN BOND AND HIS APPROACH TO NATURE:

Ruskin Bond is a prolific writer.  In his creative works, he has celebrated nature in a magnificent way.  In his works, he has tried to bring nature, particularly the hills and mountains into focus.  His concern for the nature and the natural elements are clearly reflected in his works.  In his stories, like “Uncle” “Good Day to You”, etc., he has depicted the areas of forest which are gradually losing their grip due to the oppression done by human beings.  In present scenario, it has been observed that human beings are destroying the habitat of the animal world. They are trying to extract all the valuable needs from the Nature without thinking about its inhabitants.  They are not very conscious regarding their acts against the animals and birds.  Ruskin Bond is very much perturbed while thinking for these animals and birds which are gradually becoming homeless wanderers due to the brutal act of human beings.  Men are trying to acquire all the natural resources and energy to make their lives more and more comfortable and secured.  But on the other hand, they are destroying the natural domain of the animals and birds.  As a result, birds and animals have to shift to other places.  And during their shifting, they have to even lose their lives in the hands of human beings.  Ruskin Bond writes:

“They did not know when men would appear again, with tractors, bulldozers and dynamite” (Bond, 2008)

Bond is worried about the extinction of some flora and fauna.  If human beings will act in this way, some species will vanish from this earth forever.

In another story “Dust on the Mountain,” Ruskin Bond tries to portray the problems in the hilly areas.  The oppression and tyranny done to these hills and mountains are well portrayed in this story.  In the story, the mother of Bisnu remembers the condition of their area at the time of her husband’s death.  And now, she compares that situation to the present state.  She says:

“The year your father died, there was so much snow the villagers could not light his funeral pyre for hours…….. And now, there are fires everywhere (Bond, 2008)

Bisnu’s family just helplessly watches that trees in the Himalayan areas are gradually decaying in the blaze.  While thinking about the conditions of the earth, he feels sad.  While travelling in search of a job, Bisnu met an old man in a bus.  The old man expressed his feelings to Bisnu.  He says:

“There were trees here once.  But the contractors took the deodars for furniture and houses.  And the pines were taped to death for resin.”  (Bond 2008)

Bisnu gets a job as a cleaner boy under Pritam.  Pritam is a truck driver and his duty is to carry limestone from the quarry to the depot.  Blasting is carried out in the mountain to get the lime powder.  As a consequence, in these areas, air pollution occurs and at the same time deforestation is also rampant in these areas.  Bond Writes:

“…… they were nearing the quarries when they saw clouds of dust hanging in the air. The dust hid the next mountain from view.  When they see the mountain, they found that the top of it was missing…. blasted away by dynamite to enable the quarries to get at the rich strata of limestone rock below the surface.  The skeletons of a few trees remained on the lower slopes.  Almost everything had gone ……. grass, flowers, shrubs, birds, butterflies, grasshoppers, laybird.”

In the story, Ruskin Bond tries to depict the environmental degradation that is happening everywhere from the forest to the nearing mountain.  His concern for the environment is well delineated in the story.

In another story “Death of the Trees,’ again, Bond tries to portray how trees are cut down in the name of development.  Bond’s concern for the ecological properties are clearly seen without which life will be miserable.

In the story “Flames in the Forest,” the character Romi is caught by a great blaze in the forest.  Romi is shocked on seeing the condition of the birds and animals who were the inhabitant of that forest.  These kinds of flames bring misery to these animals and birds who are very innocent, but they have to suffer a lot due to the brutality of human beings.  As a result, some precious flora and fauna get perished.  Romi says:

“Not only pheasants but smaller birds too were screaming across the road—parrots, jungle crow, owls, magpies‑‑and the air was filled with their cries.” (Bond, 2008)

Again in another story “Where have all the trees gone,” Bond shows his concern for the nature.  Ruskin Bond says:

“The tree killed by PWD, my bother by a truck” (Bond 2008)

Through the line, Bond tries to portray the utter callousness of human being, their oppression and tyranny upon the nature.  It has been observed that human beings are gradually destroying the habitats of animals and birds in the name of construction and development. Ruskin Bond is very much bothered about the birds and animals which become homeless.  He Says:

“Forest Birds, all of them, they will now be in search of some other stretch of surviving forest” (Bond 2008)

Bond tries to present the state of condition of these animals and birds that are totally helpless in front of the powerful human being.  They just helplessly watch the destruction of their dwelling places.

CONCLUSION:

             Through his stories, Bond wants to covey a message to the human world that it is the human beings who are creating their own problems by destroying the dwelling places of innocent birds and animals that have never done any harm to us.  Bond urges that human beings should protect the nature and the dwellers of nature, i.e., the birds and animals.  For a better and secured future, one must think about the natural environment.  Otherwise, the doom of this planet is not far away.

 REFERENCES:

 Bawa, Rippy, “An Ecocritical Analysis of the Indo-Anglican writing with special reference to R. K. Narayan’s Under the Banyan Tree, GARI International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

Bond, Ruskin, “The Book of Nature,” New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2008

Bond, Ruskin, “Dust on the Mountain: Collected Short Stories: New Delhi, Penguin India, 2009

Mishra, Sandit Kumar, “Ecocriticism: A Study of Environmental Issues in Literature,” BRICS Journal of Educational Research, 6 (4). 158-170

N. Anjan, C. Sathosh Kumar, “Ecological Concern in Ruskin Bond’s Short Stories,” Veda’s Journal of English Language and Literature (JOELL), Vol. 4, Issue 4, 2017.

Rohini, “Representation of Sustainable Development and Its Relation with Environment in the Selected Short Fiction of Ruskin Bond,” International Journal on Emerging Technologies, 8 (1): 404-407, 2017

Sharma, P. D., “Ecology and Environment,” Meerut: Rastogi Publications

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