In almost every Indian reader's bookshelf, a book by Ruskin Bond is a constant. Delving in his work is like taking an excursion down the memory lane, filled with childhood innocence and nostalgia. On his 87th birthday, Puffin Books is releasing a collection of 25 stories, carefully curated and handpicked by the beloved author himself, titled All Time Favourites For Children. The keepsake edition is a mixed bag of his most cherished stories like Rusty’s Adventures; Grandfather's Stories; Spooky Tales, along with a diverse set of new stories like Goldfish Don't Bark, Friends from the Forest and many more.
At Platform, we’ve had the privilege of speaking to the author multiple times. In celebration of his birthday today, we’ve revisited our conversations with the author to give you an insight into him and his mastery.
I’ve always been a loner in way. While I’m not a recluse, I do love solitude. They say no man is an island. But at the same time, in some ways, every man is an island. The one fictional character I identify myself with is Mr. Pickwick, and my favourite literary genre as a reader is probably the detective genre. Seeing India before and after Independence is a historical event that has influenced me the most. Personally, the most significant events of my life have been the loss of my father when I was eight, my return to India from England when I was 21, and coming to the hills and living here.
My all time favourite quote is ‘Laugh and be fat, sir!’
The Childlike Soul
I am still the little boy inside. I’m still very moody, and till date, nothing cheers me up like strawberry jam does. I don’t play football anymore, which is sad. I still do love kicking the ball, but there’s no way I’m going to run after it. Haha! So I guess I’m still the little boy somewhere deep down. One’s childlike soul can absolutely be retained despite age and the world’s ways. The hardest thing about growing up is to learn to deal with complications. It is surprisingly easy to hold on to the child within you by just keeping one thing constant in your life, which is what childhood is really all about — simplicity.
I don’t think it’s necessary to be a recluse, but a certain amount of isolation and solitude is definitely a part of the make-up of a serious and subjective writer. But being a recluse and cutting yourself off entirely makes one miss out on many experiences. And a writer needs experience too. So I think one must have relationships that last throughout your life, which essentially sustains a writer. Companionship is key. Most of my books are about people I’ve met and befriended at different stages of my life.
Well, I get up at 5 am and do a bit of writing (since no one is awake at that time to disturb me). Sometimes I sing a little to myself. Then I have breakfast and go back to sleep to make up for the two hours I didn’t have before. Stylistically my work hasn’t changed a great deal. Ever since I was a young writer, I had a habit of marking passages while reading, and taking down notes. I have this little journal to jot down thoughts that I still carry with me. So these little nuances have stayed with me over the years. Even now, when I sit down with a pen and piece of paper, sometimes I find myself feeling like the 20-year-old version of myself — giddy, excited and full of ideas.
Being A Writer
If you look at a few famous writers, you’ll see that many have faced a traumatic or moving experience early on in their lives. I think dealing with such a situation lends a certain duality to your voice and your character. My experiences as a child enabled me to look at things in a different light, which I put to use when writing for different readers. But I suppose underneath a dominant façade, we all have different versions of ourselves, if not two extremes. Also, The best part about being a writer is getting good work appreciated and the worst part is, getting good work ignored.
Don’t get discouraged easily. Keep your dreams in mind and work towards them.
If someone wrote my biography, I would like the title to be ‘Writing For His Life’.