June 3, 2021 6:00:53 pm
Ruskin Bond needs no introduction. The author not only features on almost every ‘reading list’ but also on the ‘most favorite author’ list. Loved by children and adults alike, some of his well-known books include The Blue Umbrella, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra, Tales of Fosterganj, Maharani.
In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, the Padma Bhushan-awardee spoke about his works, his lockdown routine, the basic dos and don’ts for a writer, and the most challenging thing for him as an author.
You recently celebrated your birthday. Did you do anything special?
I had a quiet birthday celebration at home with my family including grandchildren, Rakesh and Beena, and great-grandchildren, Sidharth, Shristi and Gautam. I got a lot of birthday wishes from people on social media. Unluclass, the non-academic EdTech platform where I am one of the mentors, wrote a storybook about my most loved character Little Rusty and His Birthday Adventure as a gift. It was such a beautiful gesture and they got all my students to share their lovely messages with me for my birthday.
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Your new book also released on your birthday, can you tell us something about it?
I have published two new books. The first one, called It’s a Wonderful Life, is about how to be happy in difficult times. The second is a collection of short stories titled All Time Favourites for Children, which features some of the most celebrated characters and stories as well as new ones.
You often mention how books have been your escape and helped you cope with life better. Did books also come to your rescue during the lockdown?
Well, books are like gateways to new worlds and dimensions. When I start reading, I don’t feel like I am confined in a room. I get transformed to beautiful places I haven’t ever been to before. I get to meet new people in the form of characters.
How would you describe your lockdown experience?
My lockdown experience hasn’t been much different than anyone else’s. Looking out of the window from time to time sure does help. Also, I have constantly been in touch with my loved ones. During the lockdown, I have written several new stories and have read about three books every week. One of the advantages of growing old is that you have so much to remember — people, places, incidents — and a stream of memories you can record to bring them back to life.
Furthermore, I got a chance to share my learnings as a writer and my journey as an author with so many young vibrant minds during a masterclass on the celebrity-powered learning and entertainment platform, Unluclass. It was a gateway to a much-needed respite from the monotony and I hope I was able to provide the same to the viewers. It has been the best part about this lockdown as it helped learners to engage with me and absorb positive knowledge from within their homes. When I heard that few people published their books after taking my class, I felt I had succeeded in at least helping some writers take steps towards achieving their dream.
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An author needs inspiration to write stories. Did you get a lot of it during lockdown, or did you struggle with writer’s block?
I have seldom had writer’s block. The story or essay is written in my head before I prefer putting it down on paper. Well, I did miss the daily interaction with people initially — that’s where most of the stories come from. But eventually, I got a lot of new ideas. The lockdown changed a lot of things and with that brought in a lot of new ways and new ideas to write about. The whole ‘new normal’, as we call it, is unexplored territory.
If you had to list the basic dos and don’ts when it comes to story writing, what would you say?
I would say never doubt your story. You are the writer, just write what you feel is best. Leave the criticism and the doubting to a good editor. Writers are often over-critical of their work because it is a very personal art. So, it is best that we leave it to someone who knows what they are doing. This I feel is the most important thing one should know.
What has been the most challenging thing about being a writer?
The most challenging thing is getting started, once the opening line has been written, I am on my way.
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Could you tell us about your daily routine and how much time you spend writing/reading on a particular day?
I work for about an hour early in the morning, writing that is. Routine work late in the day. I read more than I write, but only certain writers.
There are a large number of young writers today, each with their own niche readership. If you had to give one piece of advice to them, what would it be?
I don’t advise successful writers, why would they want advise from someone who shall write in hand? Explore! Keep exploring, reading, interacting. Try and understand what you want to write about. Yes, catering to your audience is important. But feeding the writer inside you is important too. Write what you like, don’t get too much into thinking “what would my audience like to read now”. While that is important, you must write what you want to write about.
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