Monday, April 24, 2006

50 years of Ruskin Bond.

Wow! Ruskin Bond just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first book, The Room on the Roof, and like he says in View from the top:Golden Memories,

Both book and I are still around.

Thank God for that! And well, why not? Who can resist his stories? Stories packed with fantastic pictures from the land of mountains, hills, trees and rivers, where every person springs to life, every little corner has an exciting tale to tell, and where every story is as likeable as the man who wrote them?

I cannot recall when I was first introduced to Ruskin Bond. But for as long as I remember, I have been an admirer of his. I remember looking forward to his articles in the Sunday supplement of the Deccan Herald. There was usually something by him. An essay, which would take me on a brief sojourn to the beautiful place he lived in, a little ghost story that would make me jump at my own shadow for quite a while afterward, or a seemingly unimportant incident, which would dance with life with his words.

I have spent many hours planning how I would go to Mussourie to meet him, sit on the porch of Ivy Cottage, sip tea, and talk to him. But before my dreams could see the light of day, he came to Bangalore. ;)

About a year and a half back, I woke up in the morning to see an ad in the newspapers that told me that Ruskin Bond would be spending an hour in a well-known book store, as part of a promotion tour. The next thing I knew, much to my disbelief, I was on my way, all across town, to spend a few minutes with one of my favourite writers.

As soon as I entered the store, I spotted a plump, pink and pleasant figure in a maroon shirt, walking leisurely along the aisles. I lost no time in joining him. He looked up from the book he was browsing, and looked at me, much like a kind grandfather, and smiled and nodded. I don't know if anybody was watching, but I am sure I blushed. I introduced myself, told him I loved his writing, and thanked him for his delightful stories. He smiled, and said something like "That's good".

Before I could ask him anything else, some kids discovered him, rushed up and flocked around him, with eager faces and shining eyes. I hung around, waiting. The kids left him alone for a moment, and I snatched a few more moments with him. "How much of your work is autobiographical?" I asked. He spoke, in a slow, measured way. "You could say that most of the events are real. But I have built up on it considerably". Fair answer. But for me, more mystery. Which is built up, and which really happened? Sigh! Maybe some things are best left unanswered?

Then it was autograph time. Ruskin Bond sat, smiling pleasantly, as kids lined up with their newly bought books. I stood in line, a brand new Ruskin Bond omnibus in my hands. He spent a couple of minutes with every person who went to him. There was this little girl in front of me, who had bought a book of ghost stories. When she gave it to him to autograph, he looked at the cover, and made an expression of mock horror. "Ghost stories! Are you really going to read this? Even I get scared when I read this book!" There was laughter all around, and then it was my turn. He asked me what I do, and wrote a personal message in the book, and autographed it, while the official photographer took some snaps. I left with a feeling of exhilaration. I returned to pick up my snaps with Ruskin Bond from the store a
couple of weeks later. Highly amusing. My expression is one of joy, restrained with great difficulty. I went around showing everybody his autograph and the snaps, and I was promptly christened "Bond girl". Oh well!

If this little meeting sent me into such raptures, I wonder what I would have done, had I lived my dream - which is exactly what Uma at Indian Writing tells us she did, in >this delightful account.

In his article, in which he looks back at the 50 years since his first publication, he says,

When, as a 20-year-old, I set out to make a living as a freelancer in India, many friends said it would not be possible. Fifty years later, some of them are still saying so.

He is happy, he says with the life he has lived.

If I could live my life all over again, I wouldn't change much. Only this time I would get down from that night train at Deoli and speak to the girl on the platform.*

Ah, such joy! :)

[*From The Night Train at Deoli, a beautiful story, in which he did not get down and speak to the girl on the platform, and later speaks of it with regret.]
A list of his books.
More info about him here.


Vinayak said...

I owe Ruskin Bond big time. If there is anyone who has inspired me to look within my own country and find abundant beauty, then it is him....I loved the stories in Open Sesame and his travel columns, both in Deccan Herald.

It is only because of him that I am such a travel enthusiast.

Anonymous said...

Well put.
"In his his article". - 2 his. Please correct.
- Raaji

Shruthi said...

Vinayak: Oh yes! That's very true. Not only does he find beauty, but he expresses it as beautifully!

Raaji: Thank you! Corrected.

Nirwa Mehta said...


I know how it feels when you meet someone you have admired a lot in their work of art. I met someone 2 weeks ago too!! :)

I could relate myself to most of the feelings you've mentioned here! hehe!!

Nice post! :)


Swathi Sambhani aka Chimera said...

thanks sooooooo much for this write-up.
i luv Bond's works and liked that link that u sent.

thanks once again (n color me green on meeting the author in person :)

Shruthi said...

Nirwa: Yup, read about your account on your blog :) Thanks!

Swathi: :)) Glad you liked it :) And there is no use being J of me - both of us ought to be J of Uma, who got to go and meet him at his home! :D

Anonymous said...

i love all of Bond's stories.....i am from kinda relate to his stories in a better way as have seen quite a few places which are mentioned in the stories.
have met Ruskin Bond twice..once at a book store in Dehradun...and once he was invited to our school

Shruthi said...

Mehak: That's so wonderful! :) It must be lovely when you recognize a certain place which you are reading about!

Anonymous said...

Great post..made for interesting reading! Wish you could scan the picture and include within the post as well!

bengaluru said...

Not much of a reader here, but it did bring back "the memories" from my school days. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan but i like his short stories. Leo Tolstoy and Saki(H H Munro)happen to be my other favourites esp the short stories.

Shruthi said...

Ravi: Thank you :) I would have attached the pic, if I had not been in it :D

Jeyavel: I love the short story genre... and I have many favourites including Tolstoy, Saki. Having read Tolstoy, have you read Chekhov? His are very good. Same with Maupassant, O Henry.
Ruskin Bond's stories do not have those qualities of surprise or irony. They are very simple. But what is special about it, is that it is about our own country - so you can relate to it better!

Sachin said...

Shruthi, another gem! Thank you... Ruskin Bond is another author who is on my "all-time" list! Highly evocative of our country, its splendour (especially the mountainous part) coupled with the specific legends, myths and even the ghosts that go with the locations described in his story.

In fact, this post has inspired me to post something about another of my favourites. Keep watching my space. Cheers!

Shruthi said...

Sachin: Good you liked it! And glad it inspired you :) Long time since you updated your blog, isn't it?
Yes, and don't you think you can read him any number of times and not get bored?

Anonymous said...

hi shruthi,
u are very lucky to have met ur fav. author. i have not read any of his books, but I have heard he is a great writer.
I have been an ardent admirer of another writer who started his career much earlier than Bond, way back in the 1930s. He failed in English exam, hated our education system and was hell bent on becoming a writer against his father's advice. He created a place called MALGUDI.
indeed, RK Narayan, Bond, Raja Rao and Mulk Raj anand all had guts in those days to choose WRITING as their profession. And how right they were in choosing their careers!
best wishes to u and keep writing such excellent pieces.

Anonymous said...

hi shruthi, me again.....just wanted to tell u: I LOVED THE ENDING OG THAT ARTICLE.
"If I could live my life all over again, I wouldn't change much. Only this time I would get down from that night train at Deoli and speak to the girl on the platform."
very very touching.

Shruthi said...

Bellur Ramakrishna: Thank you! Yes, RK Narayan is one of my favourites too - I have mentioned him in this post.
Yes, I loved the ending too :)

DAISY said...

I am a big time fan of Ruskin Bond...too good writer

Akshay said...

i have heard that he is a good writer. but i havent read any of his books. i am more into science fiction.

bengaluru said...

I think i took a step too far when i said Tolstoy and Saki are my favourites, I used to read the short shories during my school days, now i sometimes read them if I come across(like from people arround me). The bad part is i used to predict the surprises (but never got it right). I guess it takes something called tallent to do so and a lot more to be a writer like them. anyway Ruskin Bonds stories give that feeling of a simple alternate life while one is reading, somehow, i could never relate much with the indian theme (may be i havent read much stories of places outside india to see the difference).

Ok, Favourite seems to be a very obscurely defined word for me but I did relish Malgudi Days!

Shruthi said...

Daisy: Yes :)

Akshay: Try reading him! Of course, after science fiction, his will sound very simple and plain, but if you know how to enjoy it, you can! :)

Jeyavel: I also don't usually say favourite - I use "one of my favourites" because I like some aspect of each one! :)
Yeah, RK Narayan is one of the greatest! (there I go again :))

Anu said...

Shruthi, I feel Ruskin Bond is special not just because he writes about our own country. His is such peaceful, unhurried writing. It is like the peace you have while sitting in a boat on a quiet stream, may not really impress the mind fed on white water rafting! Ofcourse, I enjoy both!

Shruthi said...

Anu: Beautifully put. You know, you got it jussst right! :)
[I enjoy both too :)]

Shankar said...

came here blog-hopping...i pesonally loved 'face in the dark'.....his 'collected fiction' is worth more than it's cost(Rs. 400)

Anonymous said...

I am also another name in that endless list of fans of rusking Bond... Simple n sweet r his stories ,who cud forget the story " The eyes that wer not there " ... This is was one of the best stories I had in my schol curicullum, otherwise filled with boring stories.


Anonymous said...

Living in Mussoorie all my life, I can relate to Bond's stories easily. Many places have given me a new meaning after reading his works. I am just reading his "Roads to Mussoorie" and some rustling leaves near my place moves me within ... and my love for nature grows more and more ... I see him now and than but than just not talk to him as I know that he doesn't like much to be disturbed from his thoughts.

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