Rendezvous with Ruskin Bond
“Ruskin do you recognise me?”
The voice startled the man who was busy signing autographs and clicking pictures with children who had come to meet the famous writer Ruskin Bond.
That voice belonged to JB Lama, who had come to meet his school friend Ruskin. Meeting after 55 years, that too at an educational book fair, their beaming faces betrayed their
joy, and both could not help but say to everyone around, “We are meeting after a very long time.”
Then their reminiscences went back to the year 1955 and their days in school.
“He was my house captain, and also the captain of our football team,” said Lama.
Bond quipped, “Hard to believe that I played football, isn’t it?”
Memories crept up as the two friends talked about all those years they had spent at Bishop Cotton, Shimla. Lama was so happy to talk about his famous friend, it was like he had all these secret stories that nobody else knew. Like Bond’s nickname was ‘Horse’.
With a huge grin he added, “Oh, he was very short tempered and he hated mathematics. He just could not understand the subject.”
Bond agreed, “I gave our maths teacher a difficult time.”
For celebrated writer Ruskin Bond, this encounter with his classmate made his first visit to Nepal even more memorable.
“Appetising, I want to come again,” said the writer.
But he confessed that he is not an efficient traveller and often gets lost in new places.
Bond started writing when he was just just 17.
“I always wanted to be a writer. I had decided that. Also I wasn’t good at anything else,” he said.
According to him, his father’s death made him a rather lonely boy.
“His death had a big impact on me. I still think about it. He taught me how to read and write even before I went to school.”
Though with time he adapted to the turmoil in his childhood, he still chooses to stay away from the party circuit as he is not that “gregarious”.
He returned to Mussourie though he went to London when he was a teenager as the place has sentimental values for him. And today he has an extended adopted family here.
A children’s writer, his stories are simple and drawn up from life’s realities.
“And when I run out of people, I write about ghosts. But my ghosts are rather friendly. A girl told me once that my ghosts need to be more scary,” he added with a smile.
He confesses that he had to put down the best seller in children’s fiction today — Harry Potter.
“I have read just one book, and I got scared in the very first chapter. Three people get killed in just one chapter,” he said.
Bond thinks that stories for children should be adventurous, and not very much about telling them to do this or that. He prefers the preaching to be rather subtle.
A celebrated author for decades, Bond’s works turn up huge royalties today, but he says he had to struggle for almost 20 years when he started as a writer.
He pointed out that during those times, publishing houses in India were not investing much in fiction and literary books. But now that the things have changed and he opined, “I am so happy that I can write what I want to, and not something that others tell me to. And it is also nice to have something in your bank especially as I have a huge family today.”
Bond feels that the new breed of writers is promising and also lucky that they are getting published.
“I have seen many talented writers getting disappointed and backing out. They should be confident about themselves and not get discouraged easily. Rejection happens to all so they should have faith and patience,” is his sage advice.
Even today he prefers writing in long hand, having long bid his old companion — his trusted typewriter goodbye. He considers himself the “Charlie Chaplin of the modern world” as he describes himself as the least techno-friendly person and hence does not use a computer.
“At times I even hold my cell phone upside down,” he laughed.
Charlie Chaplin of modern world, a respected writer — these descriptions sit well with the Ruskin Bond one met at the Educational Book House stall. But why was he called a Horse back then?
“Because I used to eat like a horse,” is the author’s answer.