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Writing for children not easy: Ruskin Bond

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New Delhi: Writing for children is not an easy task as one has to get their attention from the first page itself, said legendary author Ruskin Bond. Delivering the annual Penguin lecture in the capital On Monday evening, the 81-year-old also shared memories spanning 65 years of his writing of beautiful mountains, unrequited love, ghosts and more.

“Writing for children is not an easy task. You have to get their attention in page one itself or they will keep away the book. You got to tell the story, “said Bond adding that he started writing specifically writing for children only at the age of 40. However, the writer, who has more than 150 titles to his credit, said that he enjoyed writing for both adults and children.

Littered with his trademark wit, the lecture titled ‘The joy of writing’ was lapped up by hundreds of Ruskin Bond fans who turned up at the Stein auditorium at India Habitat centre. As the auditorium couldn’t accommodate the overflowing audience, the organizers had to arrange LCD screens outside the venue.

According to Bond, writing in India has come of age so as the publishing scene. “Publishing in India has come of age and writing too. I would say that publishers are giving good royalties. Good writers needn’t go abroad to get published anymore. People can make a living out of writing,” said the Kasauli born writer who has settled in Mussoorie.

Admitting that he is a lazy writer, Bond said, “I don’t work very hard. I take many naps a day,” he laughed. Sharing tips to become a good writer, Bond advised aspiring writers that only an avid reader can turn in a good book. “A writer’s job is to create magic. Books will give us not just pleasure but companionship too. The other day, when I ran out of books, I picked up an Oxford dictionary and I found myself reading it page by page,” said the author who has won multiple awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India and the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri – India’s third and fourth highest civilian honours.

Some of his books which made their way to Bollywood are “The Blue Umbrella” (of the same title), “A Flight of Pigeons (“Junoon”) and Susanna’s Seven Husbands (“Saat Khoon Maaf”).

“I played a cameo role in Saat Khoon Maaf directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. I was clumsy and they had to go for seven takes in the scene where I give a fatherly peck on Priyanka Chopra’s cheeks. Then Bharadwaj said that I was doing it deliberately”, Bond laughed.

Talking about his autobiography, he said that it is still in the process. “The autobiography might take some time. One has to stick to truth while writing it. Most of the times, you have the tendency to go off the track, but you have to pull yourself in,” said the author who weaves magic with his pen. Rusty (as he is fondly called), has no intention to grow up, he said. “When people ask me this question, I tell them that maybe after my 15th or 16th birthday!” as his latest Rusty adventure titled, “Rusty and the Magic Mountain” has been released recently.

Ghoulish characters may be lurking around the corner of his cottage in Landour, but the author says his ghosts are friendly. “You can see ghosts anywhere if you want to. My ghosts are friendly. I keep seeing them, but I don’t believe them. A girl once asked me to make my ghosts scarier. When you see some of the horror shows on TV, my ghost stories are not at all scary” he said.

And the author also revealed that writing is the biggest source of joy in life. “I enjoy being an author and writing stories, probably because that is what I have been doing the best, besides playing football. Except that at 81, I can still write but not football,” he signed off. (IANS)

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Ruskin Bond Shares the Voyage of His Writing World

In England, he found a home for "The Room on the Roof," his very first novel that won him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1957 at the mere age of 23.

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He's lived in this humble Ivy Cottage since 1981 and has penned numerous tales to traverse a 68-year-long journey exclusively spent in writing
Ruskin Bond is one of the most celebrated Indian writers across the globe. Wikimedia commons

Up above the hills, where a forest of nodding flowers and an endless valley of Himalayan mountains paint the sky, lives one of India’s most-loved writers — Ruskin Bond.

He’s lived in this humble Ivy Cottage since 1981 and has penned numerous tales to traverse a 68-year-long journey exclusively spent in writing. And even as he turns 84, he shows no signs of slowing down. “In fact, I think I am writing more now,” he revealed in an exclusive interview to IANS at his residence ahead of his 84th birthday.

Bond’s vivid tales from the Ivy Cottage, and his descriptions of the view from the window at the foot of his bed, can often be deceiving for what one imagines to be some sort of a mansion of a celebrated writer is actually a humble first-floor flat of “an ordinary man”.

“I’ve never cared for riches; what will I do with them?” he asks.

And yet, when Rusty, as his readers lovingly call him, looks back at his writerly life, memories of several consecutive years when his love for writing plunged him into financial depths come flashing by. There were very few resources and opportunities for writers when he set out with his literary career. Multinational publishers were yet to find a footing in India and so, as his longtime friend and publisher David Davidar puts it, “our would be man of letters set sail for England”.

In England, he found a home for “The Room on the Roof,” his very first novel that won him the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1957 at the mere age of 23. But contrary to the prevailing notion, Bond contended, that his time in England was not very fruitful.

” ‘The Room on the Roof’ was what I carried with myself from India. I wrote very less there; or even in Delhi, there was no writing at all,” he said. And thus from the royalty advance that he was paid for his first novel, he sailed back to India. Stopping by in Karachi, he went looking for the names and contacts of editors whom he could “bombard” with his stories and articles. The then young man wanted to make a living by freelancing his writings.

The Illustrated Weekly of India and The Statesman were the main sources of income for Bond during the 1950s to the 1970s and even the 1980s, paying about Rs 35-Rs 50 per write-up. He constantly churned out stories and articles because they were his “bread and butter”. And when things went really bad, he even did some odd jobs.

Things changed for the struggling writer when publishing houses began to find a footing in India.

He's lived in this humble Ivy Cottage since 1981 and has penned numerous tales to traverse a 68-year-long journey exclusively spent in writing
Ruskin Bond will turn 84 on 19th May this year. Wikimedia commons

Penguin India came in 1985 — and the publishing space would change forever. It started publishing in 1987 with only six books. Five years later, in 1992, HarperCollins arrived and other major publishing houses followed. Even though Rupa was founded way back in 1936, its publishing gained a lot more momentum after their arrival. So did the rise of other home-grown publishers.

While the search for authentic stories from India was just beginning, here was Bond, with his tonnes and tonnes of stories and articles, ready to be compiled in anthologies and collections. The freelancer soon became an adored figure — loved and revered by generations of readers.

“Of course I want the royalty checks, but my desires are very simple. I did not have a very happy childhood so I want to ensure that my grandchildren have a secured life, so should Rakesh and Bina (his adopted family),” he noted.

For the last 37 years, he has lived on the top floor of “this windswept, somewhat shaky house on the edge of a spur” in Landour. His bedroom window (in picture) opens “on to the sky, clouds, the Doon valley and the Suswa river — silver in the setting sun — and range upon range of mountains striding away into the distance”. But thousands of others living nearby too have a similar view, so what is it that strikes a chord with Bond and perhaps not so much with others?

A child at heart, Bond leads this visiting IANS correspondent to the legendary window and says that “nobody, nobody has this view”. At night, “the sky is tremendous with stars”, the sparrows come at noon “to squabble on the windowsill” and clouds are “passers-by” during the day. “Here I sit,” he says, pointing to a small bed, tucked in the far end corner of the room, “and write”.

There are occasional visitors, trekking all the way from Mussoorie to see his house. “Yesterday, someone was clicking pictures of my staircase and I thought this is the worst staircase in all of Mussoorie, why would someone want its pictures? Then he saw me looking out of the window and the camera immediately turned towards me, I quietly disappeared,” he laughed.

He's lived in this humble Ivy Cottage since 1981 and has penned numerous tales to traverse a 68-year-long journey exclusively spent in writing
Ruskin Bond said in the interview that he felt he was writing more. Wikimedia commons

The postman comes four to five times a week, bringing letters and gifts from readers. And in these calm and serene, undisturbed and solitary surroundings, Bond sets his pen to paper — everyday without fail.

Jammu and Journey: Return to Jammu- A Novel About a Journey

A chronicler of his life, almost everything that Bond has written comes from his own experiences. He maintained that he is writing more than ever before because, apart from his memory growing stronger with age, he has a much broader and larger range of people and experiences to write about. In his latest book “Stumbling Through Life” (Rupa), releasing on his birthday, he weaves together a selection of his essays and writings to bring to the reader the rich tapestry of his life, peppered as it is with delightful eccentricities and a geniality rarely found.

“If some day I am to be remembered at all, it should be for the stories and tales I have written. I am a very simple man, always believed in the beauty of small things, I am grateful to the readers for loving me so much. My stories belong to them as much as they belong to me,” he says, his voice soft and emotional.

Happy birthday, Rusty! (IANS)