Written by Bond as a 17 year old, the story is a semi-autobiographical work.
It is a tale about an Anglo-Indian orphan boy named Rusty. He lives with his guardian Mr.
Harrison (a Missionary) and his wife in Dehradun. Mr. Harrison wants him to be groomed with
English values and to avoid contact with Indian influences.
However, Rusty is frustrated by his guardian’s stern restrictions and suffocating environment.
A day to walk free
One rainy day, Rusty meets a boy called Somi. He offers Rusty a ride on his bicycle. Rusty
roams the bazaar with his new friend and joins in with other friends of Somi. Enjoying the new
found freedom Rusty finds solace in companionship and camaraderie. He feels unbridled joy as
he finally has some space away from constant surveillance under his pesky guardian.
The moment of action
Soon the story moves to the occasion of Holi. Ranbir, a new Indian friend, coaxes Rusty into
playing with colors. Rusty enjoys the colors with his friends and in the process messes up his
clothes. After a whole day of frolics he returns to his house. At first, Mr. Harrison does not
recognize him. As soon as he realizes that it was Rusty, Mr. Harrison starts beating him
Rusty, unable to control his aggression, fights him back. Already on an edge due to past
atrocities, he retaliates this time. When the missionary's wife approaches he makes an escape
through the window.
An encounter with harsh reality
Homeless, he spends the night outside as his friends had gone to their houses. He learns the
tough reality of the world and the lonely vigil for an orphan.
In the morning, Somi collects brings him to his house. Rusty is determined not to return to his
cruel guardian’s house even though he is staring at bleak prospects.
Somi helps Rusty to get a teaching job. He becomes an English tutor to Kishen Kapoor, a young
Punjabi boy. Mr. and Mrs. Kapoor are generous people and offer a room on the roof to stay.
Mr. Kapoor is an alcoholic and almost 20 years older than his wife, Meena. Rusty is soon
infatuated by Meena’s beauty. To his surprise, Meena also reciprocated the admiration as he
feels unloved by her husband. They even share a kiss while out for a picnic in a jungle.
But it was not to be. One day, Mr. and Mrs. Kapoor leave for Delhi. After a few days Rusty gets
the tragic news of Meena’s death in a car accident.
Kishen is devastated and Rusty feels orphaned again in his young life.
Accepting grief and moving on
Kishen’s aunty who lives in Hardwar comes to take him away leaving Rusty all alone. After few
days of wallowing and self-pity, Rusty makes a decision to go to England. He knows that he will
need to visit the British consulate in Delhi for the arrangements of his travel.
He stops at Hardwar on his way to Delhi to say his goodbyes to Kishen. He learns that Mr.
Kapoor has already remarried. Kishen, unable to deal with his mother’s death, has taken to a life
of crime and become a thief. He is a wanted felon.
Rusty meets Kishen and has a heart-to-heart with him. He advises him to quit thieving as he still
feels responsible for Kishen. After all, he knows what it feels to be sad, alone and confused. He
has had his fair share of tragedy and loss.
The story exposes the pangs of loneliness that is a tough reality for an orphaned child.
The deteriorating condition of an orphan provides a grim reminder to the readers of the plight of
those that are forgotten by society.
Furthermore, the theme of youthful rebellion depicted in the story highlights the dangers of
unchecked teenage rebellion. It can lead to disillusionment and even to the dark corners of crime