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The India I Love

Ruskin Bond's latest book, a wry look back at this life, is delightfully typical of his past writings.

india Updated: May 21, 2012 15:10 IST

The India I Love
Ruskin Bond
Rupa and Co
2004
Pages: 144
Price: Rs 295
ISBN: 81-291-0397-4
Hardcover

That Ruskin Bond is an under-rated author who is stating the obvious. Not that he doesn't have fans. Most of those who've read him as children continue to look forward to and procure his writing even as adults. But despite his writing regularly for well over five decades, he is overshadowed by many, less capable, less humane, less insightful authors.

Not that there is a hint of any bitterness in Bond's writings. Over years, he has written for children and adults, penned fiction and non-fiction, travellogues and anecdotes, tales to warm anyone's heart. And as he mentions here, apart from a memorable occasion when he was dragged to court for writing a risqué story, avoided controversial stuff. "Telling a meaningful story was all that mattered."

This collection is about the India and her people. Real people, real incidents. As has been the case with his earlier works. A refusal to meet international publisher demands for Indian exotica has seen his popularity been stymied by those who pandered to those tastes.

So this book has him writing about his 'adopted' family, his early years in India, the brief sojourn in England, and the struggle to make it as a writer thereafter in India, his varied experiences with editors, publishers and other sundry people has interacted with. The anecdotes may be of the years gone by, the freshness of the writing, coupled with a dry humour makes for delightful reading.

Sample this. "Someone complimented me because I was 'always smiling.' I thought better of him for the observation and invited him over. Flattery will always get you anywhere!"

Or, "Raki (after reading my bio-data) 'Dada, you were born in 1934! And you are still here!' After a pause: 'You are very lucky.'

"I guess I am, at that."

One of the chapters of the book is from his diary in the 1980s.

May. Ordered a birthday cake, but it failed to arrive. Sometimes I think inertia is the greatest force in the world.

'Someone complimented me because I was 'always smiling.' I thought better of him for the observation and invited him over. Flattery will always get you anywhere!'

May. Now I am 52. Time to pare life down to the basics of doing
a) what I have to do
b) what I want to do
Much prefer the latter.

Bond's skill on bringing alive people through deft choices of words is in ample display here. There is introspection and recognition of himself as well the world around him. The portrayals are gently conveyed, even when the observation has been astute.

About his school days in Shimla in the 1940s, he writes, "…when I became senior, I was fortunate enough to be put in charge of the school library. I could use it in my free time, and it became my retreat, where I could read or write or just be on my own. No one bothered me there, for even in those pre-TV and pre-computer days there was no great demand for books!"

At another place her writes, "A bed, a table and a chair were all that the room contained. It was all I needed. Even today, almost fifty years later, my room has the basic furnishings, except that the table is larger, the bed is slightly more comfortable, and there is a rug on the floor. Designed to trip me up every time I sally forth from the room."

The rug may have been one of the ordinary things in life that tried to trip Bond. For his readership, Bond has always been extraordinary.

First Published: Mar 11, 2004 16:55 IST