The names of Padma awardees were being flashed during the 9pm primetime news on television. The news marquee read, "Padma Bhushan for Ruskin Bond - literature and education". Though I haven't met Bond, I was delighted for my favourite writer had been conferred with the national award on the eve of the 65th Republic Day. Is a middle enough to applaud and praise one of India's most loved and prolific story-teller? Of course not, but as Ruskin Bond's fan, I can't help but do so.
As an Indian author of British descent, Bond has played a pioneering role in augmenting the growth potential of children's literature in India. Most of his works are influenced deeply by his life spent in the foothills of the Himalayas, the hill stations of Dehradun and Mussoorie. In the course of an illustrious writing career spanning 45 years, he has penned down over a hundred short stories, essays, poems and novels. My literary soul lost its virginity to The Room on the Roof, which was his debut novel, written when he was just 17 years old and it received the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Vagrants in the Valley was also written during his teen years and the story picks up from where the Room on the Roof leaves off.
What makes Ruskin Bond so special? For more than half a century, he is one writer who has understood, felt and celebrated the wonder and magnificence of nature, which other contemporary Indian writers have been disastrous at. He writes about his escapades in the natural world; the encounter with snow leopards and cheetahs in the dark streets of Mussoorie; the first pre-monsoon shower of the Himalayas; the fragrance of the petite rose-begonia; the elfin ivy veil that creeps into his room; and the chorus of the insects in the shadow of the full moon. He yields magic with his fountain pen and paints opulent and majestic images, which we as readers can feel, experience and visualise. Like a magician, he beckons us to slip into imagination and slowly drift into the tranquil life with nature, truly idyllic, which today most of us are unable to lead as we find ourselves increasingly trapped in the cobweb of mundane tasks and trials.
Ruskin Bond is a writer who does not make headlines. Quietly, he writes straight from the heart about people and things he cares for -- his readers, his adopted family, the valleys, the mountains, rivers and roads, villages and small tea-stalls, all of which are a part of the India he loves.
Congratulations, dear Mr Bond.