Ruskin Bond turns 84, speaks about his new book
As Ruskin Bond turns 84, we speak to him about his new book and what else is cooking in his Landour home
For those of us who are used to locking our dreams away in a tiny box and hiding them in our bedside tables because we know it's safe there, it's baffling when they come true. How do we cup into the palms of our hands something we are used to cherishing only incorporeally? Perhaps, that's why it was much more believable, albeit dishearteningly, when, on the first go, the telephone operator said, "All lines have been permanently disconnected," than when a honey-toned voice said from the other end, "Hello, this is Mr Ruskin Bond speaking." The keeper of our childhood adventures and a steady catapult to juvenescence — Ruskin Bond turns 84 today. That is a solid 67 years of telling impeccable stories.
We ask him how that feels. "It feels the same as ever. I was always a lazy writer so, after about an hour's writing in the morning, I take a nap. That's the secret to my success," he chuckles.
Befittingly, today is also the day his new book launches — Ranji, the Music Maker (Puffin Books), which has an endearing little story behind it. "It was a nice little letter [which a young reader from Sri Lanka wrote to Mr Bond] because I don't have many readers in Sri Lanka. He sent me a photograph of a boy playing the flute and the only audience was a little cat. So I just set off with a story in my head and I carried on from there about Ranji who finds musical instruments in his home, which belonged to his grandfather. It is essentially a children's story... I am going to give the adults a break now and just write for children, at least for the foreseeable future," he elaborates.
The Sahitya Akademi Award conferred on Ruskin Bond
However, he is also almost done with his memoir; a book on flowers, which he says is more personal than botanical; and a story about a goalkeeper. "Oh yes, yes, when I was in school, I was a very good goalkeeper but now goalkeeping is no longer very easy [laughs], so I'll have a little boy called Suraj or maybe Ranji again, who'll become a great goalkeeper. That should be fun, I have just started writing it," he says, adding that he hopes all those who have been waiting for his book to release will not be dissatisfied. We think not, because when have you ever read something insipid hailing from the idyllic, languid charm of Landour, where Bond stays?
"Ruskin Bond has been a unique magician in the world of children's literature. His empathy and humour, his characters that leap up from the pages of his books, the oneness with the natural world, all add up to a man who showed children's writers that it was possible to be a children's writer. May you stay forever young. Fondest love and a ton of gratitude for all that you have done for children's literature."
"What can I say about Ruskin Bond that hasn't already been said? He's a great writer and I grew up reading his work, so, naturally, it holds a special place in my heart. With children's writers, you sometimes grow out of it. But with Ruskin Bond, you can enjoy it even when you're older. I actually keep going back to his stories, you know, to stay humble. It seems very simple but it's really difficult to write like that."
"Ruskin is a friend and I respect and adore him totally. There is a remarkable simplicity to his work. The complexity of his thoughts is so beautifully distilled into a simplicity of telling. I think that is his greatest hallmark. He doesn't send the reader into a maze of unnecessary language acrobatics. That's the reason why his work can be enjoyed by both children and adults with equal fervour. I hope he continues to write and write and write."
Did you know?
If not a writer, he would have been a footballer. When he was 17, he tried out for a D-team for Arsenal FC. He watches the English Premier League and European League.
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