Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Ruskin Bond breezed into Chennai, launched ‘Hip-Hop Nature Boy and Other Poems’, and waltzed into the hearts of his fans. The Ruskin Bond Landmark Tour saw a horde of admirers, jostling to have a chat with the amiable, pink-cheeked author. “I do feel ancient!” he remarked, when a girl asked him about generations of readers coming together. He soon had the audience lapping up every word. He wrote his first story in Class 6 in an exercise book, and featured his teachers in it. His master found it, read the piece and announced, “Bond, you’re wasting your time!” He tore the story up, consigning it to the dustbin! “So friends, if you write, leave your teachers out!” was Bond’s advice. ‘Room on the Roof’ was first published in London, and also serialized in the Illustrated Weekly. “I was thrilled to see my name in print!” Apparently, he had picked up the weekly, in which the first instalment had come, with illustrations by Mario.”I looked around for a friend to share my elation with. A cow on the road sidled behind me, snatched the magazine and chewed it up! High appreciation indeed!” Bond’s straitlaced grandmother had four daughters and one son. “My uncle divided his time among his sisters, till they left for England after Independence. He followed them there, but turned into a cycling postman, opening and reading other people’s letters. Uncle Ken, who is always in hot water, is modelled on him.” Bond loves watching the musicals of the 1950s. “But it would be a grave mistake to ask me to sing! Birds fall silent, cows rush across the road and cars crash!” His choir mistress once remarked, “Bond, you look charming in your choirboy’s costume. So stand with the singers, open your mouth, but ensure not a sound issues forth!” And there he was, waiting to burst into song! “So you could call me a failed opera singer!” he grins. Once he went into a bookstore to look for one of his books, a slim volume, hidden below the Khushwant Singhs and the RK Narayans. He surreptitiously pulled it out and placed it on top. The store owner noticed this, and remarked, “Yeh nahi chalta!” Just to teach him a lesson, Bond bought his own book! A pen and paper person, Bond owned quirky typewriters to prove his point. “My first typewriter was missing the letter ‘B’. So after I typed out my entire book, I filled in all the ‘B’s painstakingly.” His German typewriter had the letter ‘Y’ in the place of ‘Z’, which transformed ‘Zanzibar’ to ‘Yanyibar’, another glitch he needed to sort out! His ghost stories are legendary! One poem he read out was ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ He clarified, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I keep seeing them! I actually make them up!” When asked if he had ever written a detective story, he nodded. “I wrote one long ago, but my readers guessed the culprit by Chapter 3!” He offered a few nuggets of wisdom to young writers. “Put down what you see or read in a journal and be interested in the world and its people!” So was it a case of saying, “My name is Bond, Ruskin Bond!” He countered that by talking about his uncle, a namesake of James Bond, who was a dentist. When he passed away, his nephew wrote his epitaph: “Stranger, approach this spot with gravity. James Bond is filling his last cavity!”
Published in the New Indian Express

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