As Mussoorie-based author Ruskin Bond turns 81 on Tuesday, his tryst with his tireless pen appears to be turning more feisty with each passing day. "Chalti ka naam gaadi," is how the wizard of words responded with a chuckle when this reporter wished him.
"I hope to continue writing for as long as I can... I consider myself lucky and blessed to have received such boundless love from the readers," Bond told HT ahead of his 81st birthday.
The master storyteller, who forms a part of the literary and cultural heritage of Uttarakhand, said he'd celebrate the day with his "lovely (adopted) family and visitors in the morning," followed by a cake-cutting ceremony at a bookshop in the afternoon. "On this birthday, I wish that all my readers have a happy and joyful year ahead," said Bond who has regaled generations of booklovers and draws a massive fan following with nearly half the tourists visiting Mussoorie looking for him.
Bond's non-fiction “A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes From The Hills” (published by Speaking Tiger Books, New Delhi) based on his simple life in the Himalayas was released in Mussoorie recently. "Next, I'm writing a new Rusty book which should be ready by next month. Also coming up soon would be a collection of my old stories in a new avatar," said the octogenarian who feels he is able to "write intuitively for children because of my own lonely childhood". He describes his childhood and youth in the memoir, Scenes from a Writer’s Life.
Born on May 19, 1934 in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, Bond grew up in places like Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla before moving to London as a teenager but returned to India soon after, settling down at the Landour hills in Mussoorie. The Padma Bhushan awardee's first book, The Room on the Roof, was published when he was 17. Since then, he has penned numerous titles including A Flight of Pigeons, The Blue Umbrella, A Town Called Dehra, The Adventures of Rusty and Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra among others.
Meanwhile, excitement is palpable among Bond's fans who can't stop raving about their favourite storyteller. A fan of Bond since childhood, author and screenwriter from Uttarakhand Advaita Kala said, "My heart is filled with gratitude for Ruskin for expanding our limits of imagination and for finding something extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes, we don't even notice the simple yet most special things in life which he has the knack of immortalising through his pen."
Upendra Arora of Dehradun-based Natraj Publishers said Bond is not only a master storyteller but also a great human being who has cultivated simplicity in life over the decades. "I have yet to come across a more grounded and content person in my life and I wish him many more happy years with his family and friends. We are lucky to have him here (in Uttarakhand)," he concluded.