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Vintage Bond has the sparkle

Ruskin Bond is an institution. Not just in his adopted hometown of Mussoorie but in the hearts of his legions of fans all over the country. Catching up with him during the World Book Fair, where he received Rupa and Company's ND Mehra Award for 2003.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2004 19:47 IST

Ruskin Bond is an institution. Not just in his adopted hometown of Mussoorie but in the hearts of his legions of fans all over the country. Suman Tarafdar caught up with him during the World Book Fair, where he received Rupa and Company's ND Mehra Award for 2003.

You have been around for a while now. How has the scene changed for writers and publishers in India?
The scene has definitely changed. Writers of course still remain dependent on the publishers. However writing in the 1960s was limited to textbooks and magazines. There were very few general books available. Now that has changed a lot. Fiction writers had to go abroad to get published. Even I had to look abroad for getting my stories published.

However now I no longer need to look for international publishers as my audience is right here in India. It is good to publish in India.

Was writing for children acceptable then?
It was very difficult to find publishers for children's stories even then. It was definitely easier publishing children's stories abroad in the 1960s and 70s. But now children's writing has become far more acceptable.

To what would you attribute this change?
Well, better education for one. As the education system has started encouraging children to read and write, at least in the better schools. The progress is slow, but it is definitely picking up. There are greater number of authors available, also more publishers. The international trend for children's books becoming a part of the bestseller lists, has of course helped.

Has a change in production qualities helped?
Of course. Rupa has improved a great deal. The general quality has gone up. It is very important for a children's book to be attractive.

Some authors have said international publishers have certain formulae for Indian children's stories. Is that true?
International publishers generally tend to look for a set pattern for India - exotic tales, rather romanticised. There is little demand for a tale about ordinary, regular children. So, I guess, yes.

Good reading leads to good writing and good writing leads to so much more. The lack of adequate reading facilities is detrimental to children at large.

How can the reading culture be improved in our country?

Well, reading has been a minority pastime. It was so even when I was a child and continues to be so today. Nevertheless there are a vast number children who read voraciously. Accessibility is a factor. While areas like Kerala and Bengal have a fairly good reading culture, other parts of the country, especially the interiors have to develop this. Where I stay, in west Uttar Pradesh, it is difficult to come across a general bookstore.

Lack of libraries is another factor. And sometimes even in'good' schools, children are discouraged from reading beyond their syllabus. Good reading leads to good writing and good writing leads to so much more. The lack of adequate reading facilities is detrimental to children at large.

The government could possibly look to some form of subsidising books in regions where reading is not popular or not easily available.

First Published: Feb 14, 2004 10:46 IST