The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 16, 2002

Languorous days in Ladour
Rajnish Wattas

Landour days; A Writer’s Journal
by Ruskin Bond. Viking. Rs 195. Pages 160.

Landour days; A Writer’s JournalIT takes a Ruskin Bond to turn an ordinary of life into an extraordinary story. And, while he is at it, his words flow with the ease of a mountain stream—sometimes puckish like a torrent; sometimes languorous like a river.

Landour Days is mellowed leaves culled from his diary; rather quaint notes to himself. Presented in the form of a cycle of seasons and months (and all that changes with them: be it the sighting of a new flower, a rare bird or an eccentric visitor), life in his home in Landour is never boring. As Bond writes in his introduction, "The journals are not just about writing life. They are about day-to-day living, my relationship with the world of nature (which in some ways has taken the place of religion), and with the people who live with me and around me."

He laces his everyday jottings with some of the most insightful reveries on his love for reading, life as a fulltime writer, on critics, writers and the writing process. Always a great one at making light of his personal hardships— the traumatic loss of his father at an early age, a lonely childhood, the struggle to publish his first book and survive as a writer on ‘small cheques in the mail’ — the journal makes for a perfect, ‘feel-good’ bedtime reading.


Writes Bond, "Although I still do most of my writing in longhand, I follow the conventions by typing a second draft. .... Sometimes I like taking my notebooks or notepads to odd places ... Typewriters and computers were not designed with steep mountain slopes in mind." There you have, the quintessential Ruskin Bond — always his natural self, at peace with himself, his limitations and with the world.

The remarkable thing is not only his gift for simple pleasures of life but also developing a great bond of empathy and compassion for all living creatures; be it birds, flowers or people. His power of observation of all that’s around him and deriving joy out of it makes for a rich life without having to amass riches!

The month of March opens as, "Holi brings warmer days, ladybirds, new friends. Trees in new leaf. The fresh light green of the maples is very soothing. I may not have contributed anything towards the progress of civilisation, but neither have I robbed the world of anything. Not one tree or bush or bird or flower. Even the spider on my wall is welcome to his (her) space."

Bond’s curiosity and fondness for the natural world extends even to the lowly insects, and he notes that our "insect musicians’ are roused to their greatest activity during monsoons. And as with most insect musicians, the males do the performing, the females remain silent. This moved one Greek poet to exclaim: ‘Happy the cicadas, for they have voiceless wives!’ to which Bond quips, "Pity the female cicadas, for they have singing husbands!"

Though his life has been full of strife, almost on the brink of penury at times — he never indulges in any mawkish self-pity or self-flagellation. Rather he enjoys his decision to opt out of the rat race and live life on his own terms, at his own pace of choice in the hills of Mussoorie. In a candid soliloquy. Bond writes, "And have I won the time for leisure, books, nature, love and friendship? Yes, most of it ... not everything falls in place. How can it? ... My faults and limitation are many, but I’ve always accepted that I’m the most imperfect specimen of humanity ..." Not a bad example for many of us, living adrenaline-charged, mad lives, to imbibe! His self-composed jingle, perhaps says it all: "I’m all right/I’m doing my thing/And in my own right/I’m a king."

Bond reminiscences about his first published novel, Room on the Roof, written at the age of 19, and its serialisation in the then prestigious Illustrated Weekly. Awaiting the arrival of its first copy both with delight as well his characteristic, self-poking, gentle humour, he recalls, "My hands were not exactly trembling as I opened the magazine, but my heart was in my mouth ... I waved the magazine in front of Mr Gupta, ‘My novel,’ I told him. He wasn’t impressed. ‘Well, I hope circulation won’t drop,’ he said. Expansively, I bought a third copy, ‘Circulation going up!"

Even if at times there is a sense of deja vu while reading this almost R.K. Narayanesque dateless diary — as some of the jottings have appeared in his earlier autographical books also — there is yet a morning-dew freshness and a timelessness of the hills permeating it. The beautiful sketches and cover design of the book by Ajanta Guhathakurta, further embellish his lucid prose.

The journal reads as if the writer is conversing personally with you on a cosy, wintry evening by the fireside that his presence comes alive fully. For the vast legion of his loyal readers it will enable that encounter through print. And for those of us who have savoured this pleasure in real life, it is a reaffirmation that in Ruskin Bond’s case art imitates life completely.