April 23, 2021 4:31:40 pm
World Book Day is celebrated every year on April 23. And any discussion about books remains incomplete without mentioning Ruskin Bond. The 87-year-old author has written innumerable books and is one of the brightest stars of the literary landscape.
Recently, he spoke with Humans of Bombay and gave a glimpse of his life. Bond shared that during the Second World War, his father was in the air force and he used to live in Dehradun with his maternal grandparents. He received the news of his father’s demise a year after his parents divorced. “I was shattered,” he wrote. Being lonely, he started creating his own world, and books formed an integral part of the same.
“In a way, books were my escape – at the age of 12, I used to read more than 5 books a week. All I wanted was to emulate my favourite authors, so I started writing short stories. And in 1951, my first story was published in a local magazine; I was 16!” he stated.
This is also when he decided to be a writer though his mother did not take his wish seriously. He went to England for college. “The next four years taught me how difficult it was to sustain as a writer. After college, I’d juggle four part-time jobs and chores. At the end of the day, I’d be exhausted, still I’d write at night. On weekends, I’d go from one publishing house to another, but my work was rejected everywhere,” he shared further.
In a cinematic twist, as if he was writing his own story, things changed after he decided to return to India. “But just as I boarded the ship, I got a postcard saying that one of my stories was selected by a publisher; they’d sent me a cheque of £50!” By then his mother and step-dad had moved to Delhi and his grandparents had passed away. Bond rented a place in Mussoorie and lived alone. “Every day, I’d bombard newspapers–one published story used to earn me about Rs.50; I was content with that.”
In 1956, he wrote his breakout Night Train at Deoli, which went on to become a bestseller. He was just 24. Although he wrote about falling in love at train stations (Night Train at Deoli), in reality, he shared, none reciprocated. “I mean, here I am, at 87, still a bachelor! So in the 1960s, I adopted my househelp’s kids– they’re my family. But being a writer meant living hand to mouth, so I’d often go to Delhi and do odd jobs. And when I had enough money, I’d come up to the hills to write,” he added.
He rose to fame during the 1990s, something he realised through a funny incident. “I was at a station when three kids pointed at me and exclaimed, ‘Ruskin Bond, Ruskin Bond!’ Relieved, I thought, ’At least someone knows me!’”
His reveals that his routine has remained the same in the last 30 years: “I enjoy my morning hikes, watch TV and munch on my favourite mutton cutlets while writing.” He has also been taking more naps. “With age, I’ve started enjoying my naps a lot more. On weekends, I go to the one bookstore here and talk to people.”
The famed author is also on Instagram, something, he confides, was his godsons’ doing. “They keep teaching me how to use it. But I’ve given up! I tell them, ‘I’m very happy with my books, don’t make me a part of this mad world online.’”
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