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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

RUSKIN BOND: Storyteller Loved by Young and Old Alike

This accomplished Indian author of British descent has written over 500 short stories, essays and novels.

ht-school Updated: Jul 05, 2019 15:33 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
During an ongoing writing career spread over five decades and more, Ruskin Bond has written more than 50 children’s books. But his works are enjoyed by readers of all ages.
During an ongoing writing career spread over five decades and more, Ruskin Bond has written more than 50 children’s books. But his works are enjoyed by readers of all ages.(Illustration: Gajanan Nirphale)

Born on May 19, 1934, in Kasauli in pre-Independence India to a British couple, his early years were spent in Jamnagar and Simla as his father was with the Royal Air Force. By the time he turned 10, the boy had experienced two personal setbacks on the personal front -- the separation of his parents and the passing away of his father. The death of his father may have subjected him to pangs of loneliness and anxiety, especially because he used to encourage Ruskin not only to read books often but also to take up writing.


He studied at the Bishop Cotton School in Simla where he won several writing competitions including the Hailey Literature Prize and the Irwin Divinity Prize. In 1952, he completed graduation and travelled to England where he lived with an aunt. Though he had moved to Britain in the quest of greener pastures, Bond returned to India after some years and began working as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines, which is what his father had wanted him to become.


At the age of 17, he began work on his first novel The Room on the Roof. It describes the life of an orphaned Anglo-Indian teenager who runs away to live with friends to escape his tyrannical guardian. The book was based on his experiences of living in a rented terrace flat in Dehradun. He had to wait till the age of 21 for its publication. It was worth the wait because the book fetched Bond the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial prize. After his initial success, the budding author settled down in Dehradun but later moved to Mussoorie.


A popular fictional character in his novels is Rusty, a 16-year-old Anglo-Indian boy living in Dehradun. He is orphaned and has no real family. He starts living with his guardian John Harrison, who is stern and harsh in his manners. Rusty is obliged to follow the orders and rules of his guardian and dares not disobey him.


During an ongoing writing career spread over five decades and more, Bond has written more than 50 children’s books. But they are enjoyed by readers of all ages. He has experimented with a wide range of genres including fiction, essays, autobiography, non-fiction and romance.

The prolific author was conferred the Sahitya Academy Award in 1992 for the title Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2014. His novel The Blue Umbrella was made into a Hindi film which won the National Film Award for Best Children’s Film in 2007.

His autobiographical works include Scenes from a Writer’s Life, The Lamp is Lit and Lone Fox Dancing. He is also known for stories with a supernatural twist such as Ghost Stories from the Raj, A Season of Ghosts as well as A Face in the Dark and other Hauntings.

Penguin India published two of his novels, The Room on the Roof and its sequel Vagrants in the Valley in 1993.

Interesting Facts:

The very first book that Ruskin Bond read as a child, and also his favourite one, was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll. It kindled his imaginative powers. Alice’s offbeat story had a strange fascination.

Most of his works are based on life in hill stations where he spent most of his childhood. He used to go for long walks and did a lot thinking. His musing during these walks gave him ideas for books.

Bond often complains that he is very lazy and feels grumpy when it rains. Despite these claims, however, he has had a prodigious output. He has published over 50 children’s books

While some of his stories such as The Blue Umbrella and Susanna’s Seven Husbands have been adapted for films, he has always preferred to stay away from the limelight of the media.

He had a short role in the film 7 Khoon Maaf, the Hindi adaptation of his work Susanna’s Seven Husbands. Bond appears as a bishop in the movie with Priyanka Chopra playing the title role.

Sources: Books by Ruskin Bond, Wikipedia,

First Published: Jul 05, 2019 15:23 IST