In 1944, a very young and impressionable Ruskin Bond suffered the loss of his favourite storyteller — his father. It was a loss that Ruskin says left a deep void in him — one that would later inspire him to become a storyteller himself. And over the course of seven successive decades to come, young Ruskin would grow up to clinch the title of being the ‘favourite storyteller’ to a lot more than a million children and teens spanning generations and sometimes even continents. And it is a title that he refuses to relinquish even at the age of 81.
Armed with an abundance of good humour that only seems to grow with age, Bond recounts for us a story that we’ve all read before in bits and pieces, spread like a puzzle across more than 130 titles and scores of shorts and essays. It is the story of one of, if not the most prolific writers of the country — his own.
In his career, Bond has sold more books than many of his present day competitors put together. But ask him what he considers to be his crowning achievement and he says, “I always wanted to escape to the mountains and do what I loved doing — write. And I have been successful in doing that so far.” Bond has almost lived his entire life in the mountains of Mussoorie and Dehradun.
With a secluded hilltop lodging that he now owns and his long-time companion Meena to keep him company, life is now much more peaceful, says Ruskin. But he adds that it was not always the case. “When I had started working in Delhi, the dream always was to escape to the mountains. I had already been writing for sometime and so wanted to be close to publishers. So at that time, after having worked for four years, I left Delhi and rented a small cottage in the mountains in Mussoorie and started writing. Back then the bank balance wasn’t as secured. So I have been very lucky to get to where I am,” says Bond.
A writer ever since his high-school days, he recounts his journey into writing and says, “When I was very young, my father used to take me for walks across Delhi and show me the monuments. He would tell me stories and it was a time that I deeply enjoyed. He was very fond of me too. But I lost him when I was only ten years old. And I think somewhere it was that loss that pushed me to write. It is often the case with many popular writers that they had faced the loss of a dear one early on and it had a role in their writing. I guess it was the same with me too.”
Still cheeky and active, Bond promises that his writing career is far from done. “I guess there is no reason to not write as long as my mind and body allow me to,” he quips. Of what is to come in the near future, he says, “I have signed a deal for a Rusty book in which he will be going to the Magic Mountains (while his love for mountains is known all too well, this one says Bond will have witches and magic fountains!). And there is also another scary horror title with Rusty, which is set in a school. But as for now, I am mostly writing essays. I have always been fond of essays and want to write more about simple living.” But the most exciting of all to come is Bond’s autobiography. “Yes, that one has been on the cards for sometime and I want to finish it too.”