If you were an avid reader as a child, or if your parents wanted to instill the habit of reading in you, there is no way you wouldn’t have Ruskin Bond or two on your shelf.
The room on the roof, The blue umbrella, Time stands still in Shamli…no matter how old you are, the Ruskin Bond books never fail to remind you of your first love, a terrible heartache, that trip you took with your friends to a hill station or the friendships that continue to occupy you. most of your heart.
Ruskin Bond may have gained immense fame and popularity in the literary world and won numerous awards including Padma shri and Padma bhushan, but the Anglo-Indian author remains humble, modest and continues to blow people away with his witty one-liners.
At the age of 87, he delighted readers by launching a children’s book, All-time favorites, a collection of 25 short stories. Ruskin also recently had the opportunity to share his learnings as a writer during a masterclass on the celebrity learning and entertainment platform Unluclass.
During a call with Weekender YS a day before her birthday and the launch of her book, the beloved author talks about age one, life, writing, the best treatment on the planet, and more.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YSWeekender (YSW): What is your new book about?
Ruskin Bond (RB): This edition includes some of my popular children’s stories in addition to some short stories. I have been writing for over 70 years now. So there is a lot of choice. Although I’ve written around 500 short stories, that’s only 25 of them. These are my favorites and also my editor’s favorites. My young readers will particularly appreciate this book.
Every year, I’m trying to get a new book for my birthday. This has been the case for several years now. In fact, I’m pulling out a new book and starting to write a new one on my birthday too. So when I get up tomorrow morning, I’ll start working on a new book. It’s a habit.
YSW: You’ve been writing for so many years. What has changed in your writing? How did you evolve as a writer?
RB: I started writing shortly after leaving school. My first short story was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India magazine. I was 17 at the time. I followed up with a short story called The room on the roof who won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Award in 1957.
I have lived most of my life writing. I have about 200 titles printed. But my writing hasn’t changed much.
I like to tell a good story. I like to entertain young readers. In fact, I love the very process of writing, putting words together, and writing interesting sentences. I have tried to write better and hold readers’ interest over the years, three generations of them in fact.
And I think I have succeeded to some extent in doing so.
YSW: You may have been writing for years, but whenever a reader finds some freshness in terms of ideas and scripts. How did you manage to achieve this?
RB: I think it’s partly because I am a very personal writer and write a lot about my own life. When I get excited about nature, birds or animals, or even the rising sun, I try to convey it through writing so that the reader can share my experience.
I also keep a diary book, a kind of diary, but not on a regular basis. I put in a lot of observations and experiences as they happen and they eventually make room for my stories. I have met so many people and had so many friends; there is so much to look back at which means you can never run out of gear. My whole life is stretched out in front of me when I write.
Every morning is a new day, a new experience. I start again.
YSW: Kids today are naturally drawn to technology, gadgets, social media, etc. Do you think technology keeps kids away from books?
RB: Reading has always been a minority pastime. When I think back to my own school days, I remember that in a class of about 30-35 boys, only two or three of us liked to read.
I’m talking about the 1950s. We were in a good school and even had a good library. But in the 1950s there was no television, no Internet, or video games that are there today to keep children from reading. So what did other people do when they weren’t reading? They would go watch a movie once a week and do other things.
Over the years, education has also spread and improved the storyline. Today there are many more readers than in my childhood because education was limited to only a few people.
Today, if I write a book, I know that it will be read by some 1000 young people. Forty years ago, I had hardly any readers because education had not really spread.
YSW: How has the book publishing and sales industry been affected by the lockdown?
RB: Publishers have suffered greatly; booksellers suffered a lot of losses. They were hit very hard. Nowadays, books are also sold online, but publishers are going through a difficult time.
YSW: You are going to be 87 years old. What are some of the awakenings you’ve had lately?
RB: I won’t say I lived a very adventurous life, but I took risks because I always wanted to make a living from my writing. In other words, to do what I love the most and make it my vocation or profession. And I was able to do it.
Sometimes when times got tough, I was willing to take on other types of jobs. But when things got better, I always went back to writing full time.
The world has changed. India has changed. It feels good to be alive and to see these changes happen. Not always, however. There are ups and downs in everyone’s life but I think we could have taken better care of this wonderful planet. Having said that, there is still time.