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Meet Bond

MALA KUMAR

A recent interview with Ruskin Bond reveals that his greatest passion is to write... to write something of lasting value.

Murali Kumar K.

"We must keep loving all our days,
Someone, anyone, anywhere
Outside our selves."
Ruskin Bond, in The Rupa Book of Love Stories.

And Ruskin Bond has done this with the hills of Dehra Dun, with the people around him, and with India. A Little Night Music is a first-time collection of poems on everything from nature, children, his phantom lover and cricket. The man who won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize The Room on the Roof written when he was 17, is still happy writing in longhand, sitting at his desk, in his room with a view of the hills. Excerpts from the interview:

You've written over 300 short stories, essays, novels and more than 30 books for children. Yet in The India I Love you mention that you wish to write "something of lasting worth...that does not get lost in the mass of wordage."

I think every writer wants future generations to read what he has written. I don't know whether I have written anything of lasting value. One can't look into the future and tell whether a piece of writing is going to be liked. But I've always tried to produce my best.... never setting out to be a great writer.

You've managed to write for children without moralising. But aren't you disturbed that teachers may provide their own morals to your stories?

Children do not like preaching. Two-thirds of my writings are for general reading, but some of those have been selected as suitable for textbooks. I write mostly for pleasure, and the reading should ideally be for pleasure too. I do feel bad sometimes that children have to write questions and answers based on my stories!

My childhood was spent trying to find out whether your essays were fictional stories or true first-person accounts.

Yes, I do like to write in the first-person, putting myself into different shoes! In many cases, the stories are autobiographical. The Rusty stories, for instance, are almost all mostly from real life. Rusty is my alter ego. But many people thought "Escape from Java" was real. Actually, I'd done a lot of research on the Japanese invasion that gave this story of pure fiction a feeling of veracity. "Grandfather" and the pets he had are real, but Grandpa died when I was just one. I heard a lot about him from my family. And so the boy in the "Grandpa" stories is fictitious.

How did Rupa & Co. get a bachelor to edit a book of love stories?

Oh, it's important to love, not necessarily to marry! Keats died before he could get married, Byron could never get along with his wife, and I've written about my experiences in love — Binya, Susheela and the Vietnamese girl — but I don't think I would have been happy if I had got married!

Does the media hype bother you?

I like talking to visitors, especially children. But, an unexpected visitor once got very upset with my refusal to meet her. She threatened to tell Khushwant Singh about me. Go ahead, I told her, I've always wanted to get into his column. (Khushwant Singh hasn't done it yet!)

Some books and authors children should read?

R. L. Stevenson, John Buchanan, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, though it is a bit scary, Alice in Wonderland, a simplified version of Dickens and I'm not too sure that we should grade fiction as suitable for specific age groups!

You wrote the screenplay for Kipling's Kim. What happened?

Oh, the screen treatment is still there somewhere in one of my drawers! But "Junoon" was based on A Flight of Pigeons and Doordarshan filmed some of my stories. The Blue Umbrella is being made into a feature film by Vishal Bharadwaj.

You mention so many books that you read as a boy. Do you maintain a list of books you've read?

I have an excellent memory — for books and authors, that is. I remember all the books I've read. Sadly, many excellent writers like Denton Welch (A Voice in the Clouds) are forgotten by the world. In a small way, I try to bring them back into public memory by mentioning them in my essays.

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