“The stories and the poems float in through my window, float in from the magic mountains, and the words appear on the page without much effort on my part.
I can see the curvature of the earth from my window, because there is nothing between me and the far horizon.
Planet Earth belongs to me. And at night, the stars are almost within reach.”
– Journey Down The Years
The name is Bond, Ruskin Bond.
Always wanted to be able to say that. For someone who grew up in a place close to Ruskin Bond’s muse (Dehradun and Musoorie), it was difficult to keep oneself away from the magic of his writings. The hills have been home to the author for decades now. Even if you haven’t been to the city, a large part of you who has grown up on his writings, is strangely acquainted with the place already.
I wish I could meet him in person, but I had to make do with a telephonic conversation with the legend. I am a ball of nerves, but an honest voice from the other end, calms me down. It’s as if I am talking to someone I already know.
I begin by asking him about his childhood. After having lost his parents at a very young age, Bond now lives with his adopted family in Landour, Musoorie.
So when did he know he wanted to write?
From a very young age in fact. I was always very fond of reading. I wrote my first published book, when I was 16. But my mother would always say, go join the army. But I was determined to write.
For a man who writes so passionately about love, it is difficult to believe that this ‘single’ man, did not ever fall in love.
I am a very romantic person, I fall in love every day. Sadly, my love affairs ended rather poorly. I was writing a lot about love in my 20s, when I was falling in and out of love. I did get close to marriage a couple of times. But I think I am not husband material. I am very stubborn.
We know of one such love affair, that shaped some of his writings at the time. Meena, finds a way into his books and we were curious to know if it indeed were a real person.
Yes, she is a real person. She is probably dead by now. She was much older. You know how it is, there are times when you take a liking for a much older person, when you are young. I am sure, she knows I wrote about her.
The line gets disconnected. I dial again, he immediately picks up the phone and goes,
There is definitely a ghost in here. My phone has been acting weird for quite sometime.
I laugh it off.
No, am serious.
Mr Bond has always been a very subjective writer, most of his work in that respect has been pretty autobiographical. I ask him, if he has rubbed anyone the wrong way since he talks about real people.
In a career spanning decades, Mr Bond’s works have found their way into our homes, our libraries, our school syllabus and even cinema. From Junoon, Blue Umbrella to Saat Khoon Maaf, many of his writings have been adapted to the 70 mm screen.
I was very happy with Junoon and Blue Umbrella. I don’t watch a lot of Hindi films now, I used to as a youngster but not anymore. Not even American films. They are too violent. While I wasn’t happy with Saat Khoon Maaf, I was particularly impressed with Priyanka Chopra’s work in the film.
Does he ever wish a film was made on his life? Who does he think could play him in his biopic?
Oh, I am very pudgy. (He chuckles) They don’t have anyone who looks like me in the industry. But I love Anupam Kher, he is a brilliant actor. So yes, maybe he could play me in the movie.
He is turning 83 today and continues to write. It’s difficult to find anyone from any generation, still, who doesn’t enjoy or identify with his work. How does he manage to keep himself so relevant? In his book, Journey Down The Years, releasing today, he writes,
Railway stations! Trains! Platforms! I knew as long as these were there I would never run out of stories. Ambala Junction gave me The Woman on Platform8, the Kalka-Shimla Railway route gave me The Tunnel, and a small wayside halt on the fringe of the Siwalik forests gave me The Night Train at Deoli.
Does he follow contemporary writers?
I don’t particulary read Chetan Bhagat, I am sure he has a massive following. But I don’t read him. It’s not my kind of writing. I love to read detective fiction, for light reading, or classics.
From children’s books, erotica to ghost stories, there is not a genre, that Ruskin Bond has not written about. We’re sure he is brimming with advice for all the young writers out there.
I have a lot of advice for young writers. I have in fact dedicated a book to that. The first thing, you should know how to write. I am not very old school but please get your basic grammar and sentence structure correct. I am not a purist, but a little respect for the language goes a long way. I’d like them to know that there will be hardships, there will be struggles, any creative person faces that. So don’t lose hope, if you have made up your mind, believe in your writing. Don’t give up.
I am inquisitive to know if he finds the need to be on social media or if ever he will be on Facebook.
I don’t know. The first set of people I’d send a friend request to, apart from my family, would definitely be the publishers. I’ll ask them about my royalties. That should be fun.
Does he read Kindle?
Oh, the one where you can read books? I have used it a couple of times, but I still prefer books. Only problem, they catch a lot of dust.
We prefer books too sir, no matter how much dust they catch, your books are our most prized possessions. I wish the conversation with him could go on forever. I wish him a ‘Happy Birthday’ and he wishes me a good life.
Dedicated to an author, who has graced my book shelf for years, to an author, who helped me dream, for all you need is to open the window of the room on the roof.