The Story of Madhu by Ruskin Bond
In The Story of Madhu by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of friendship, connection, innocence, loss, loneliness and acceptance. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of friendship. The narrator despite the differences in age develops a friendship with Madhu. He is by her side throughout the story though at the same time it is noticeable that the narrator does not fully understand Madhu till she is dying and he visits her home. Despite their friendship being four years old the narrator has previously never visited Madhu’s home. It is as though he has only seen one side of Madhu. The happy side of a girl who enjoys playing and learning. It is also noticeable that the narrator is alert to other people’s possible criticism of his relationship with Madhu. In fact so concerned is the narrator that he decides upon sending Madhu to another village for her education. This may be significant as it suggests that the narrator is prepared to cut his immediate ties with Madhu in order for there to be transparency.
The theme of innocence is self-evident in the story and the narrator ensures that Madhu should remain as innocent as possible. Perhaps he does so because he himself realises the importance of innocence to a child. That a child should not be burdened with the criticism that envelopes people’s lives and holds people back. If anything the narrator longs for Madhu to be educated as soon as possible so that she can find her own expression and freedom. Though at the same time it is clear to the reader that the narrator may be unable to let go of Madhu. He may not necessarily be prepared to make the required sacrifice. However the narrator may not necessarily have a choice in the matter particularly when Madhu gets sick and the narrator visits her at her home for the first time. It is at this time that the narrator realises how much of an impact he has had on Madhu’s life. The simple ribbon he gave her the previous year still remains wrapped around her wrist. Highlighting to the reader just how important the connection is between Madhu and the narrator.
The setting of the story may also hold some significance as Bond appears to be highlighting the fact that the narrator does not wish to be connected with the world in a manner that many twenty something year olds might want to be. He is happy to live as he sees fit without applying any pressure on himself. He is as isolated as can be and this suits the narrator. He longs for nothing in life once he has Madhu by his side. Though as mentioned he is conscious of what people might think. The grandmother’s role in the story should not be underestimated. If it were not for her Madhu would have no home. She through altruism has helped Madhu through life. Where others may have abandoned Madhu. The grandmother does not. Even in death the grandmother is beside Madhu. Holding her hand as she is dying.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator feels the weight of Madhu’s death on his shoulders. He knows that he has encountered someone that he will never forget and who he cannot let go of. Such was Madhu’s impact on the narrator. It is also possible that the narrator unlike the grandmother does not accept the fact that Madhu is dead. He simply can’t comprehend how someone so young could pass away. It is also noticeable that the narrator in his loneliness realises that his life will change for ever. No longer will he be the care free man that he was now that his life has opened itself to cynicism. Life in reality will never be the same for the narrator. The loss of Madhu has such an impact on the narrator that the reader feels as though the narrator’s direction in life has changed and will remain changed permanently. He may have only known Madhu for four short years however she has had a powerful impact on his life.