On 87th birthday, Ruskin Bond says ‘lockdown has given time to reflect on bond with nature’
Ruskin Bond, who will be celebrating his 86th birthday on Tuesday, says the idea of death doesn’t scare him as he has lived a simple, contented and fulfilling life, written books and stories over the last seven decades, through which he will keep living in the hearts of his readers.
“Recently one kid asked me when I die, what I would like to be reborn as. I told him that I want to be reborn as a parrot on a mango tree…”, says Ruskin Bond in a telephonic interview with HT on the eve of his 86th birthday, busy as ever, writing his next book, this time his lockdown diary, which, he says, may likely be titled ‘It is a Wonderful Life’.
On the question that it is difficult to ask him about death as his books and stories are filled with positivity, optimism, life-affirmative themes, celebration of ordinary life around, understated humour and his tremendous zest for continuing to look at life from his famous hillside window and keep spinning tales, Bond says, “Well I wrote a poem the other day. Its last line is ‘until death comes, all is life…’. So death comes to all of us… I consider myself extremely fortunate to have lived so long and to have been, for the greater part of my life, a fairly contented person; contentment more than happiness. We don’t know what comes next, what I will miss on the other side, but I feel some people here might miss me…”
On the feel-good-factor and freshness in his writings, Bond says, “People say this is my writing style; that I have a calming influence (on readers). People say even when I write a ghost story they don’t get frightened. The ghosts are too friendly… I guess, by and large, though I have my low moments, and I sometimes do feel a bit depressed, I have a cheerful nature and I try to see the best in human beings and bring it out.”
“I have been writing since the age of 16-17 and a lot of work has accumulated over the years. As I have got older, my readers have also increased. So I am very fortunate that way. I take one day at a time. So at this stage, no point planning too far ahead. I write when I want to write…,” says Bond, whose book about his boyhood days in Dehradun in the 1950s is about to be released.
When asked what has changed during the lockdown when he looks out from his window, which over the decades has itself become a character and theme for many of his writings, Bond says, “Well these days from my window, I can see Dehradun and the distant Himalayan peaks very clearly. First I thought my eyesight was improving (he laughs). But it is cleaner air, due to almost no traffic and tourist influx these days”.
“Also, in the morning I see more birds these days. Perhaps due to too much traffic and tourists, they were avoiding coming down here. And I must tell you, whenever I run out of ideas to write about, there is always this window that I can write about…Everybody should have a window to look at this beautiful world,” says Bond, who was born on May 19, 1934, in Kasauli to a British couple.
On how the lockdown has changed his daily routine, Bond says, “Well honeymoon couples are not coming to seek my blessings these days (he laughs). Letters from readers have also stopped these days. Though I am not a great TV watcher, I loved to watch sports. But these days all sports activities have stopped. Earlier I used to take long walks. But now I mostly go on drives on the hill roads here. That has stopped these days”.
“I am used to working from home for long hours. But occasional outings or a walk helps. I wake up in the morning. Write for a few hours. Then after breakfast, I read something-mostly old favourites like The Story of My Heart written by Richard Jefferies, detective fiction by Agatha Christie- and Indian writers like Amitav Ghosh, RK Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, whom I knew. In the afternoon, I take a siesta and in the evenings I watch TV these days to catch up on what is happening in the world,” says Bond who came to live in Mussoorie in 1964.
Asked whether Coronovirus epidemic should make people across the globe rethink and contemplate about their relationship with Nature, Bond says, “I think all this has been possibly caused by too much interference and overexploitation of Nature, fuelled by our over-consumerism, materialism and soaring population. See what has happened with Amazon forests in Brazil. Lockdown has given people enough time to be in solitude and reflect on their lives and their relation with Nature..”.
“But I am hopeful that children and youngsters, who are increasingly becoming aware of what is being done with Nature and the environment, will make a difference in the coming time. Youngsters were not so aware in the past, say 40 to 50 years ago. And I think, ultimately it is people who have to change their mindset, you can’t blame the government all the time,” says Bond, who is perhaps the most loved writer by children and regularly interacts with his young readers.