India’s beloved writer Ruskin Bond revisits his childhood in his newest title that promises to regale readers with its simplicity, oneness with nature, and nuanced relationships in their truest forms
The view from the author’s home in Landour
If there ever were a thing to romanticise about, it would be reading. And your approach would be justified if you pick up a book by a cherished author like Ruskin Bond. Although, Bond’s stories have never been rose-tinted. Instead, they’ve gently guided many by the hand as the author unravels moments of joy, sadness, exploration, and uncertainty. In his new title, Animals in the House (Puffin Books), Bond’s trademark depictions of characters, life’s nuances, relationships and nature come together for another classic. The author explores these themes from his home in Landour.
Excerpts from a telephonic interview:
Your gentle treatment of bitter-sweet moments has helped readers grapple with difficult emotions. Is this intentional or your natural storytelling at play?
I write the way I am by nature. We are all born with our particular natures and I try to stay true to mine. So many of my stories are personal, so my thoughts and feelings do come through. And that’s the way I’ve always written even though sometimes critics might say I’m too personal a writer. I try to communicate with the reader. We all have so much in common; when I write about myself and my feelings, I’m writing about yours too.
Nature comes alive as a character. How does your proximity to it continue to inspire you?
Nature has kept me going, physically and mentally. So, I never run out of things to write about because I’m quite ready to write about nothing. As of this morning, there was a little ladybug on my desk looking rather lost, so I picked it up and put it on the rubber plant near the window and hopefully, it’s on its way home. I always try to show compassion for all creatures, even insects.
Pages from Bond’s chapter book. Illustrations/Saumya Oberoi
At this moment, I’m sitting in my little sunroom surrounded by potted geraniums that flower all year round and next to me is my cat, Mimi. She’s a beautiful Persian cat but she’s also very naughty. I had great difficulty getting her out of my easy chair with the sun on it. And now that I’m in it, she’s trying to get me out of it.
The little book, Animals in the House, takes me to my childhood; my grandfather kept some odd pets and they led to funny episodes. He didn’t keep them all at the same time, that would’ve been chaotic. I have split the stories into chapters for easier reading for children, to get them into the habit of reading chapter books.
If characters in this and other books who knew young Rusky were to read your stories, what would they say?
I was only 10 when my father passed on. I was still struggling to be a writer when my mother passed, so they never saw my success, if you can call it that. I’m sure they would’ve been pleased to read about themselves because I never said anything nasty about anyone except one or two uncles, aunts, and my school headmaster.
What is your advice to young writers?
Hold on to your dreams, don’t let them go or be discouraged. Dream and build castles in the air but put foundations under them, too. I’m still dreaming. Master the craft and language you write in, be fluent in it and have a feeling for good prose.
Animals in the House by Ruskin Bond
Log on to: penguin.co.in
Cost: Rs 199