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I have revisited my school days: Ruskin Bond

books Updated: Dec 19, 2008 13:12 IST
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Grandfather is a man of many gifts. Granny makes gooseberry jam and looks after everyone, Uncle Ken gets into strange situations and Aunt Ruby is afraid of flowers. Mr Oliver, the scoutmaster, eagerly looks forward to his retirement.

Meet the cast of The Parrot Who Wouldn't Talk and Other sides, the new volume from Ruskin Bond, one of India's best known authors. This slim anthology of memories from the author's school days is to be released in the capital later Friday.

"I always wanted to do some children's stories. I enjoyed writing about my own childhood, about relatives, some of whom were eccentric," Ruskin Bond told IANS in a leisurely pre-release chat in the capital.

The 75-year-old author, who started working on the book a year ago, wanted to revisit his school days, most of which he spent at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla.

"I have written about my youth and childhood, but I have neglected my school days. They were interesting and full of fun," he said.

Ruskin Bond is best known for his ghost stories - encounters with strange apparitions and beings. Ghost Stories from the Raj, compiled and edited by the author, and The Season of Ghosts are two books where the author brings the gentle spirits of the netherworld alive with his characteristic wit.

"A little girl Wednesday complained that my ghosts were not scary enough. She has probably grown up on a diet of horror movies on television. I told her that my ghosts were more friendly than the ones shown these days," the author said, recollecting his trysts with the other-worldly kind.

"This is an incident where I did not see the ghost but felt its presence. It has happened several times.

"I am a light and restless sleeper. Often at night, the blanket (rajai) falls off me - and off the bed. And then I feel someone picking it up, putting it back on me and tucking me into bed. But when I switch on the lights, there is no one in the room. It is probably a maternal spirit," the author said.

Rationalizing later, he added, "Who is a ghost, after all? He is a real person but on a different dimension intruding upon this world - not the hostile creature that people create these days to shock."

The author rues that television has taken away the "fear and excitement from classical ghost stories".

Born in 1934 in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh), Ruskin Bond grew up in Jamnagar in Gujarat.

His first novel was "The Room on the Roof", which he wrote at 17. It fetched him the John Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. "The prize money was just 50 pounds. Add to it another 50 pounds that I got from my publisher Andrej Deutsch as advance. It funded my passage back to India," he said.

Bond wanted to be a writer while in school. "I was writing short stories in school and they were getting published. But it began when my mother piped me off to England to stay with relatives in the Channel Islands.

"In my last year in India in 1951, I kept a journal in Dehra Dun and I decided to turn it into a novel. The journal became the Room on the Roof. It is autobiographical, but I fictionalised it. I took almost a year to complete it because the book needed a second draft and a third draft before I could get a publisher in London," he recalled.

The author stays with his extended family in Landour in Mussoorie. "We are 12 in all - myself and my adopted family that comprises three generations of my domestic help, all of whom have grown up in my house," the author said.

Bond is planning two more children's books with his new spread of characters, provided his publisher Penguin India approves of them. "But I am keen on doing ghost stories, provided I meet new ones."