Kakul Hai seeks out delightful author Ruskin Bond in his home in the hills
Finding your way to Ruskin Bond is not easy. It is easier to bump into him at the Cambridge Book Shop in Kulri Bazaar, Mussoorie on Saturday afternoons. There he signs books while visitors love to be photographed with this affable personality.
At Ivy Cottage, his home in Landour, his adopted granddaughter, Shrishti, stands guard.
“She has to ward people off,” Bond jovially says,“Otherwise she will get a shouting from me!”
After two failed attempts to get past Shrishti, I finally managed to find Bond only because he answered the door himself!
“I’ll meet you tomorrow, around 4 pm?” he said in a requesting tone of voice. The next day, a smiling Shrishti let me in and I was graciously welcomed by Bond into the great writer’s den. Never before have I seen a room packed with so many books. There are books on shelves, coffee table, side tables, even on the steps of the staircase. And I was yet to see his study and writing room!
A love of reading was instilled in him by his father that goes to make him the first writer in his family.
“I don’t think writing is hereditary. My mother used to like reading Westerns, and my father read stamp catalogues!”
Ruskin’s connection with Lucknow is long and intimate. His mother studied at La Martiniere Girls’ College, in the 1920s, and his younger brother was a student of La Martiniere Boys’ College while Bond went to boarding school in Shimla.
“I used to go to Lucknow quite often when I lived in Delhi in the 1960s. I used to like it there. The old world atmosphere and its charming decadence,” recalls Bond who had wandered around the Imambaras, the old areas of Lucknow and different places associated with the 1857 mutiny of Indian soldiers against the British.
Now Vishal Bharadwaj, musician and film director wants Bond to write a mystery story set in Lucknow with qawwalis and the serial killer disappearing into the Bhool Bhulaiya!
His short story, A Flight of Pigeons is based in Shahjahanpur where his father was born.
Ram Advani, one of Lucknow’s most famous living legends is a friend of his. Advani, owner of a quaint bookshop by the same name was bursar at the Bishop Cotton School when Bond was a student of about eight years.
Giving a naughty insight on Advani, Bond jokes that in his bookshop there are only those books to be found that the bookseller likes!
Bond wants to know if the majestic old Mayfair cinema still stands in Hazratganj? For Bond is a film buff, an encyclopedia of English films from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Bond also remembers Capoor’s Hotel and a Chinese restaurant in Hazratganj where all the La Martiniere boys used to hang out. And, of course, the Indian Coffee House.
“I was taken there by a journalist and it was full of talk of politics. Lucknow is all about politics,” smiles Bond who had once stayed at the Carlton Hotel which he suspects is haunted.
Bond has a penchant for ghosts and he is the author of many ghost stories. He is not very imaginative claims Bond, one of the country’s most successful authors.
“I am basically a realistic writer,”he explains. Most of his work is inspired by the everyday life of real people and Nature.
The nature-loving part came gradually. It grew on him once he decided to live in the hills and listened to the birds. He waits for the whistling threshes to come early in the morning. He had a crow sit on his window-sill and sips out of his beer mug.
Contrary to his admission that he is not romantic, his description of nature speak otherwise. When he was 17 years old he wrote in The Room on the Roof:
The light spring rain rode on the wind, into the trees, down the road; it brought an exhilarating freshness to the air, a smell of earth, a scent of flowers; it brought a smile to the eyes of the boy on the road.
Among other artistic expressions, Bond claims to draw an apple and make it look like a cricket ball, and vice versa! Bond is very fond of music too.
Why is he still a bachelor?
It is because he is not handsome, grins Bond. He has bad teeth because he sucked his thumb as a child. He tells a funny anecdote at the dentist’s. “When I was about seven or eight years old, my mother took me to a dentist in Dehradun. Dr. Capadia was to put braces on me. I was so scared in the dentist’s chair that I kicked him on the shin, hard!
The doctor told my mother to take me away and he never wanted to see me again! The result is that he still has buck teeth! He is still single as all his affairs were unrequited love. Even if it is true that all the girls Bond ever got to know refused to love him back today he is loved and adored by millions of fans of all ages and gender.