Everlasting Bond with the hills

In an age where writers are making headlines and are heard more than they are read, Ruskin Bond prefers to let his pen do the talking. He writes stories straight from the heart
Aruti Nayar

Ruskin Bond autographs a book for a young fan at his home in Mussoorie. His books have been prescribed in school textbooks and countless young boys and girls write to him regularly
Ruskin Bond autographs a book for a young fan at his home in Mussoorie. His books have been prescribed in school textbooks and countless young boys and girls write to him regularly

He is the quintessential writer who captures the myriad shades of nature like a miniature artist. He has brought immense joy to many a child by weaving a world that is as authentic as it is imaginative. Writing unhurriedly at his own pace in Ivy Cottage, Landour, Mussoorie, he is "one of the biggest tourist attractions" of the tiny hillstation. By itself, this can be unsettling when visitors barge in at the crack of dawn or late at night. But he never gets rattled and bears it with his trademark gentle smile.

Meeting Ruskin Bond, who recently received the Padma Vibhushan award, is meeting an entire way of life. In an age where writers are making headlines and are heard more than they are read, he prefers to let his pen do the talking and avoids the media strobes. Straight from the heart, he writes about things that he cares about — his readers, his adopted family, verdant valleys, towering mountains, rivers and roads full of possibilites. And, of course, villages and small tea-stalls that are an integral part of the India he loves and has made his home. When you ask him why he prefers not to go to Litfests, his wry answer is: "Then I won't get much writing done." Refusing to be a part of the communications revolution and instead preferring to be in communion with nature as well as his inner self, he neither has a mobile phone nor an e-mail id. He prefers to write his manuscripts in long hand. To the question if he saw himself as a writer-activist who could pick up cudgels for the diminishing forest cover and rapid urbanisation, gently he says: "I don't see myself with a placard on the street but whatever I want to say, I do in my books." His books, of course, capture the magical quality of life in the hills and the people who are hardy and with deft strokes the pristine world becomes vivid. As he puts it, "When the man-nature balance is upset, animals will come into urban areas but unlike human beings they kill only for food. We men kill for greed, property, lust and for many other reasons!" Not only a champion of nature and simplicity, he is also very helpful be it to other writers (who he gives addresses of publishers and mentors) or job seekers who want to write an application. Young lovers too request him to write love letters on their behalf, though he wonders what happens later on once the girl discovers that the young man does not have the turn of phrase that had swept her off her feet. If one thought that the present generation of children, who are more into gadgets and less enamoured by nature, would not be able to relate to Bond's world, it comes as a surprise that he gets numerous letters (that too hand-written ones) from children. What is endearing is that there is a Facebook page dedicated to Ruskin Bond, with more than 19,000 likes. It says that the "writer may not be aware of the existence of this page." As a reader, sharing the joy of Bond’s Padma Vibhushan, says: "Well deserved for a man who has made many a childhood a little more magical." What Bond has aplenty is a rocking sense of humour which can be impish as well as self-deprecatory. When you tell him that they don't make writers like him any more, he grins and says, "Yes, they don't have my figure!"

As far as the writers he likes, it is the old favourites (Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy Somerset Maugham and Bronte sisters) any day, besides RK Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand. As far as films go, Bond feels, "The movies these days have a lot of violence. I liked Nimmi a lot. A favourite is Mr and Mrs 55, starring Kishore Kumar and Madhubala." Three of Bond's scripts have been turned into films— The Flight of Pigeons into Junoon, The Blue Umbrella into a film by the same name and Susanna's Seven Husbands into Saat Khoon Maaf. With an impish smile, he narrates an anecdote when he shot for a cameo in Saat Khoon Maaf. "I was supposed to give Priyanka Chopra a fatherly peck on her cheek. In the first take, I knocked off her glasses, in the second she fell down and by the time we were on to the seventh take, the director (Vishal Bhardwaj) turned around and said to me, 'Mr Bond, I think you are doing it deliberately!'"

Awards & Honours

In a writing career spanning 63 years, the 1934-born Bond has written over 120 books, including short stories, essays, novels, travelogues and more than 30 books for children. Prominent among the collections are The Night Train at Deoli, Time Stops at Shamli and Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra. His first novel, The Room On The Roof, written at 17, received the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India in 1992 for Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra. He received thePadmashree in 1999 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2013. In his last essay in The Lamp Is Lit, Bond writes, "There are many brave and good Indian writers, who work in their own language — be it Bengali or Oriya or Telugu or Marathi or 15 to 20 others — and plough their lonely furrow without benefit of agent or media blitz or Booker prize. Some of them may despair. But even so, they work on in despair. Their rewards may be small, their readers few, but it is enough to keep them from turning off the light. For they know that the pen, in honest and gifted hands, is mightier than the grave."

Selected works

n Garland of Memories
n Funny Side Up
n Rain in the Mountains — Notes from the Himalayas
n Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra
n Dust on the Mountain
n A Season of Ghosts
n Tigers Forever
n A Town Called Dehra
n An Island of Trees
n The Night Train at Deoli
n A Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings
n The Adventures of Rusty
n The Lost Ruby
n Crazy times with Uncle Ken
n The Death Of Trees
n Tales and Legends from India
n Time stops at Shamli
n Grandpa tickles a tiger
n The Tiger In The tunnel
n The Parrot Who Wouldn't Talk
n The Doctor
n Hip Hop Nature Boy and Other Poems
n Tales of Fosterganj
n Secrets


n The Room On The Roof
n Vagrants in the Valley
n A Flight of Pigeons
n The Blue Umbrella
n The Sensualist
n Delhi is Not Far
n Maharani
n Angry River

Memoirs & Travelogues

n The Road To The Bazaar
n Once Upon A Monsoon Time
n The India I love
n Footloose in Agra
n Landour Days — A Writer’s Journal
n Roads To Mussoorie
n All Roads Lead To Ganga
n Scenes From a Writer's Life
n Tales Of An Open Road
n On The Road to Badrinath