With an easy poise, schoolboy hair, a gentle demeanour, a smiling bespectacled face and a familiar wit in place, prolific author Ruskin Bond charmed audiences at the Jaipur Literature Festival with anecdotes from his past and the shaping of his literary career.
A big crowd, including a large number of schoolchildren, who thronged the grounds of Diggi Palace, the venue of JLF, heard in rapt silence as Bond spoke about how he borrowed from his own life for many of his earliest books.
Bond was in conversation with Ravi Singh, Founder, Speaking Tiger, an independant publishing house.
“A lot of my earlier stories are actual experiences, characters, experiences and situations, which I then turned into fictional narratives.
“In order to tell a good story, you have to manipulate, and this is how learning continues in order to be a good writer,” the 81-year-old writer said.
Many of Ruskin Bond’s stories have a running trope of a lonely child, something which is a reflection of the author’s own young life.
“If you have a lonely childhood, it makes you more sensitive to the problems of other children. When I see such a child, I see something of myself in them and my sympathy and empathy goes out to them,” he said.
Bond recalled his brief time with his father, who influenced a lot of his writing, describing the period when the two of them were living in Delhi.
“He was my first friend, he would often take me to monuments, Humayun’s tomb, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk and he would tell me the history behind them. That was the genesis of my writing,” Bond said.
The quirky author, who has penned numerous stories and novels -nestled with the background of the hills of Mussourie or others about bustling lanes of Delhi, acknowledged that his loneliness was partly due to the separation of his parents.
“Even today I get very disturbed and upset if I see married couples with children quarrelling because I know it is going to effect children. They should always put their children first,” Bond said.
In his lifetime, Bond has been said to fall in love many times, to which he affirms, “Yes I had a habit of loving very often, unfortunately never got a lot of love back!”, quick to add however that he did receive immense love from all his readers.
He even shared a little snippet from his young age, where he had tried to kiss a girl when they both were 10-year-olds, they both missed each other, evoking peals of laughter from the receptive audience.
He narrated another anecdote about the time he’d gone back home after completing his schooling telling his mother about his willingness to be a writer, but she was dismissive, asking him not to be silly and instead join the army, which is what took Bond out of India for a few years.
And it was in Britain, that Bond, homesick for his life in India, for his friends and all those places he was used to, wrote his first book “Room On The Roof”.
His yearning for home in India brought the loved ‘Rusty’ back to the country, where he eventually took up permanent residence in Mussourie, in the laps of nature. The hills continued to feature in a lot of his works thereafter.
Choosing to live in a quaint corner of the otherwise bustling Mussourie, Bond maintained that it was important for authors not to be seen, unlike today when they have to go all out in order to sell their books.
“When I started writing, writers were not seen, they did not have a face. They would just he known by their name. And being anonymous, you could go amongst people and know them easily. You could watch people, without them watching you,” he quips.
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