The first story you ever wrote?
A funny story when I was in class 8, titled Nine Months, but it didn't have anything to do with pregnancy. I wrote about school life - and funny things about the headmaster. When he found out, he caned me. And my first story landed in his waste paper basket.
Rusty as a grown mature man: Anupam Kher. A young Rusty: Shahid Kapoor
Don't you ever run out of ideas?
That's why I write ghost stories. When you run out of people, you can cook up a ghost.
If you had to write about a spider right now...
The spider crawling up the wall? I will give it some personality first. Then pick up spider folklore. Spider running up the wall, means it is going to rain; spider running down the wall means there's going to be an earthquake.
Your advice to aspiring writers
Be a good reader. Master the language you write in and then if you want to experiment, that's fine. But kachcha kaam mat karo.
The craziest thing a fan has done for you
One followed me all through Kolkata. But many bring me chocolates and pens (and I don't discourage them). One brought me an umbrella (black, not blue umbrella), which was thoughtful because people borrow umbrellas and don't return, just like books.
What's your new book, "Uncles, Aunts and Elephants" about?
A selection of light stories written over the years - a lot of them are on funny uncle and aunts. It is like a Christmas stocking full of goodies.
Any plans to retire?
A real writer should not stop writing.
How did your parents react when they found out you wanted to write?
When I finished school, my mother asked me, "Now what do you want to do with yourself Ruskin?" And I said, "Mom I want to be a writer". She said, "Don't be silly. Go and join the army."
Was your grandma as warm and wonderful as the ones in your books?
My real grandma was quite a tough lady - a typical old Victorian who'd say, "A little boy should speak only when he is spoken to". If I didn't behave well, "No second helpings."
Any regrets in life?
I would have liked to have atleast one or two tremendous love affairs. A bit late for that I think. But you never know.
Your favourite children's writer
Richmal Crompton. I love reading his short stories about William, a boy of about 9-10 years old . They get reprinted from time to time but they are not as popular as they used to be.
Do you have a pet python?
I am not for keeping pets in the house - they are best seen in the wild. My mother told me a lot of stories about how my grandfather kept different animals as pets. So some of my stories are based on them like the tiger cub, the python.
An unfulfilled ambition.
As a boy, I wanted to be a tap dancer. But I don't have the figure for it now.
You have been published for over 60 years. Is it still thrilling?
After so many years, the thrill depends a lot on how attractively a book's published.
From HT Brunch, September 28
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