Here’s my take on “The Hill Billy” – a book by Shivdutt Sharma.
“Good-natured, evoking nostalgia for a forgotten era, this charming memoir is both touching and entertaining. A must read for all those who love the hills.” – Ruskin Bond A mango ensures the birth of a son… Ghosts hoot and cackle in a forest… A tiger strikes terror in the heart of a village… A boy experiences the first stirrings of desire… On trips back to his hometown, memories appear, cling, and then fade away like the mist in the Himalayan foothills. Tracing the pangs and pleasures of growing up during the time of missionary schools, wind-up gramophones, hand-pulled designer rickshaws, maharanis in their imitation castles, busty film stars of the black-and-white era – a lone, all-brown boy in an all-white American school comes to grips with his coming of age. Fast-paced and furiously funny, The Hill Billy zips up the otherwise tranquil, languid, laid-back life in a hill station that hasn’t quite got over the hangover of its British past. The debut work of an author who has spent a big chunk of his life coining advertising slogans and jingles – The Hill Billy runs riot with its take-off on school teachers, hunters, swamis, dairy farmers, and nosy neighbours. In the process, it takes a somewhat whacky, irreverent and cynical view of the characters who love, laugh and come alive through its crackling narrative.
A pleasant memoir of life on the hills of Mussoorie, the book will make every once a hill dweller nostalgic and every other person jealous of such a simple yet happening life.
At a first guess, the book might seems like some poet’s description of the beauty of the nature, the clouds hitting on the peaks, the chirping of the birds, the panoramic sunset and all other sorts of treats to the eye that the Earth has bestowed upon the lands closer to the skies, while reading the book does otherwise. It will introduce the reader to the different characters living on the hills, men who are imprints of the society that had invaded India at that time and women who are not any plain-jane.
The book starts with a very thrilling prologue, probably explaining the escape of the author’s family from Sailkot during the partition of India, the later stories explain how the author was born from a mango and how his birth brought in the death of a family member, as assumed by the superstitious Hoi polloi of that era.
The influence of the jinns, the new old house on the hills, the adventures of the innocent, the clash of the women in the family, the travelling saints, the patriotic spirits, the love affairs , the tales of the folk, the royal families and the beauty in the hills, the author had come across all these and a lot others in his boyhood years and that’s what he complied into the book.
Ratings- 3.8 stars out of 5
The English language used in the book is appreciable and would be a treat for grammar nazis as it is error free.
The existence of magical creatures and their stories have never failed to fascinate me so “The Abduction of Kisna” happen to be one of my choicest chapters in the book.
All the stories are simple and perhaps true and that’s what actually makes the book special.
Personally, I crave for such a life , the life which the author led and the life he has made me experience through the book.
A book lacks a content page and though it has nothing to affect the literature in the pages, insertion of a content page would be helpful to the readers.
The cover is simple and matches the serenity of the book.
The book is a clear example of the fact that when you have more to say than others , then why not say it to more people instead of just the others.
A book that will make every reader awe the beauty of life on hills.
Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini