ABOUT THE BOOKRuskin Bond had his first short story published when he had just left school. Two years later, his first novel, The Room on the Roof, was accepted by a London publisher.
On the ship that brought him home to India he met a twelve-year-old girl called Koki, who shared her chocolates with him, having heard that he did not have money for chocolates. He did not see Koki again, but she turns up in his stories from time to time. She doesn’t grow old. She is twelve-year-old Koki forever. And if you live close to nature, to flowers, trees, birds and mountain streams, you will remain young, like Koki and Somi, the protagonists of this book.
- Koki’s Song is about the friendship between twelve-year-old Koki and a cowherd called Somi. Koki often wanders out into the hills. On one of her walks, she is drawn towards the sound of someone playing a flute. The flautist is Somi, a quiet and gentle cowherd, who expresses his admiration for Koki through the songs he plays. Koki’s Song is a sweet almost-love story, and an ode to the rich and peaceful world of the mountains.
- Koki gains much from being at one with her surroundings. She pays close attention to sights and sounds, and learns the value of being a quiet but appreciative observer. Her encounter with the chital deer, and later her interactions with Somi are examples of how she is rewarded for her ability to simply watch and listen with care. The book challenges readers to think about how to engage sensitively with the natural world.
- Without using too much dialogue, author Ruskin Bond conveys the depth and warmth of the relationship between Koki and Somi. The characters barely speak, but their shared appreciation of the mountains and of each other is conveyed through the ever-present music of Somi’s flute, and through their shared silences. The book is a heartfelt meditation on the meaning of love and friendship.
- Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta’s illustrations are vivid and colourful, while also echoing the slightly melancholic tone of the narrative.
- The book is very open-ended and neither defines nor explores the relationship between Koki and Somi beyond the fact that they enjoy each other’s company, and that Koki is very sad when Somi has to go away for a while. The vagueness of the relationship gives it a poetic quality, but also a sense of incompleteness. Are the two simply friends? Are they in love? What will happen to them in the future? According to the blurb, we are meant to understand that the figure of Koki is associated in author Ruskin Bond’s mind with the idea of eternal childhood – and so perhaps, the story does not have a future – but this is quite a complex idea and younger readers for whom this book is meant may not connect with it.