A Guardian Angel by Ruskin Bond
In A Guardian Angel by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of connection, love, freedom, memories, separation and acceptance. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is a memory piece and is narrated by a man known only as Ladla. What is also clear to the reader is that Mariam has a close connection with Ladla and he with her. Ladla has nothing but fond memories of the times he spent living with Mariam even if he did not fully understand what Mariam did for a living or as to why he was only allowed to occasionally sleep in the same bed as Mariam. The life that Ladla lives prior to being sent to boarding school is full of freedom. A freedom that Ladla enjoys and does not wish for it to end. Something that many children may feel when the arrival of school comes. It is a life changing event and one that can be difficult to adjust to. Which is very much the case for Ladla. No longer does he have the comfort of Mariam when he is in school and as Mariam can only write her name. There are no letters exchanged between the two. Something which furthers the sense of separation between Ladla and Mariam.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Ladla appears to accept the position he finds himself in. Firstly he accepts that his mother has died. Then he accepts that he must live with Mariam and finally he accepts that he must leave Mariam and live with relatives of his father. At no stage apart from querying why he should go to school does Ladla rebel from the position he finds himself in. Though some critics might suggest that due to Ladla’s young age (six) he has little understanding of what is going on. This may not necessarily be the case particularly when Ladla becomes aware of the constant stream of gentleman caller’s to Mariam’s home. Ladla may be young but he may also not necessarily be naïve. It is also interesting that Ladla doesn’t have a bad word to say about Mariam while others who are older view her with scorn. Possibly because of her occupation which might not have been acceptable to people. However one should not judge another person by how they have to live their life in order to survive.
The fact that Ladla is so heavily influenced by Mariam might be because of the lack of any male presence in Ladla’s life. Ladla does not see his father (only his relatives) and all the men who come to visit Mariam have only one object in mind. To sleep with Mariam. If anything Ladla’s life is dominated by women who care for and love him. Ladla is also a novelty to those in the Bazaar due to his light skin colour. Something which means that Ladla immediately sticks out and will be the centre of conversation. Which may be a good thing when it comes to Ladla trying to make friends. Not everything in life is negative for Ladla as one would expect when one loses a parent. On the contrary Ladla is treated very well by Mariam and she takes good care of him. Even if some might suggest that Mariam is a negative influence on Ladla because of her occupation. All in all Ladla has happy memories of his time with Mariam. Something that is clearer to the reader by way of the fact that Ladla visits the Bazaar when he grows up and also visits Mariam’s grave. He has never forgotten Mariam or what she has done for him.
The end of the story is interesting as everything has changed when Ladla returns to visit the Bazaar. The only thing that has remained static or secure are Ladla’s memories of his time spent at the Bazaar. This may be significant as Bond may be suggesting that at times all a person is left with is memories. That life itself will continue and things will change. However memories are more permanent and won’t change. The fact that the angel on Mariam’s grave has a broken wing and the face of the angel is distorted might also be symbolically significant. Despite these irregularities Bond may be suggesting that Mariam no matter how she lived her life was in reality Ladla’s guardian angel. She was there for him when she needed him. Just as Ladla may have never forgotten Ladla it is also possible that she has never forgotten Ladla. Despite how others may have judged her. Mariam stepped up to the mark and took control when control needed to be taken. She ensured that Ladla would receive an education and progress in life. Something she herself may never have been able to do.