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Stories Short and Sweet Paperback – 1 January 2013
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About the Author
From the Publisher
Conversation with Ruskin Bond
Most Himalayan villages lie in the valleys where there are small streams, some farmland, and protection from the biting winds that come through the mountain passes in winter. The houses are usually made of large stones and have sloping slate roofs so the heavy monsoon rain can run off easily. During the sunny autumn months, the roofs are often covered with pumpkins, left there to ripen in the sun.
One October night, when I was sleeping at a friend’s house in a village in these hills, I was awakened by a rumbling and thumping on the roof. I woke my friend and asked him what was happening.
‘It’s only a bear,’ he said.
‘Is it trying to get in?’
‘No. It’s after the pumpkins.’
A little later, when we looked out a window, we saw a black bear making off through a field, leaving a trail of half-eaten pumpkins.
Face to Face
In winter, when snow covers the higher ranges, the Himalayan bears come to lower altitudes in search of food. Sometimes they forage in fields and because they are shortsighted and suspicious of anything that moves, they can be dangerous. But, like most wild animals, they avoid humans as much as possible.
Village folk always advise me to run downhill if chased by a bear. They say bears find it easier to run uphill than down. I am yet to be chased by a bear, and will happily skip the experience. But I have seen a few of these mountain bears in India, and they are always fascinating to watch.
Himalayan bears enjoy pumpkins, corn, plums and apricots. Once, while I was sitting in an oak tree hoping to see a pair of pine martens that lived nearby, I heard the whining grumble of a bear, and presently, a small bear ambled into the clearing beneath the tree.
He was little more than a cub, and I was not alarmed. I sat very still, waiting to see what he would do.
He put his nose to the ground and sniffed his way along until he came to a large anthill. Here he began huffing and puffing, blowing rapidly in and out of his nostrils, so that the dust from the anthill flew in all directions. But the anthill had been deserted, and so, grumbling, the bear made his way up a nearby plum tree. Soon he was perched high in the branches. It was then that he saw me.
The bear at once scrambled several feet higher up the tree and lay flat on a branch. Since it wasn’t a very big branch, there was a lot of bear showing on either side. He tucked his head behind another branch. He could no longer see me, so he apparently was satisfied that he was hidden, although he couldn’t help grumbling. Like all bears, this one was full of curiosity. So, slowly, inch by inch, his black snout appeared over the edge of the branch. As soon as he saw me, he drew his head back and hid his face.
He did this several times. I waited until he wasn’t looking, then moved some way down my tree. When the bear looked over and saw that I was missing, he was so pleased that he stretched right across to another branch and helped himself to a plum. I couldn’t help bursting into laughter.
The startled young bear tumbled out of the tree, dropped through the branches some fifteen feet, and landed with a thump in a pile of dried leaves. He was unhurt, but fled from the clearing, grunting and squealing all the way.
The Flag ‘Bearer’
Another time, my friend Prem told me, a bear had been active in his cornfield. We took up a post at night in an old cattle shed, which gave a clear view of the moonlit field.
A little after midnight, a female bear came down to the edge of the field. She seemed to sense that we had been about. She was hungry, however. So, after standing on her hind legs and peering around to make sure the field was empty, she came cautiously out of the forest.
Her attention was soon distracted by some Tibetan prayer flags, which had been strung between two trees. She gave a grunt of disapproval and began to back away, but the fluttering of the flags was a puzzle that she wanted to solve. So she stopped and watched them.
Soon the bear advanced to within a few feet of the flags, examining them from various angles. Then, seeing that they posed no danger, she went right up to the flags and pulled them down. Grunting with apparent satisfaction, she moved into the field of corn.
Prem had decided that he didn’t want to lose any more of his crop, so he started shouting. His children woke up and soon came running from the house, banging on empty kerosene tins.
Deprived of her dinner, the bear made off in a bad temper. She ran downhill at a good speed, and I was glad that I was not in her way.
Uphill or downhill, an angry bear is best given a very wide path.
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- Item Weight : 118 g
- Paperback : 88 pages
- ISBN-10 : 8129124637
- ISBN-13 : 978-8129124630
- Product Dimensions : 12.1 x 0.8 x 18.2 cm
- Publisher : Red Turtle (1 January 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews: