To say Ruskin Bond is a prolific writer feels like an understatement. The 86-year-old author of children’s and adult’s fiction has written over 500 short stories, essays and novels. The octogenarian has been writing for more than 50 years!
There has never been a moment when he has stepped away from the pen and paper (or typewriter). Bond’s love for the Himalayas is well-known. The hills have been his home as well as the source of inspiration for his stories. His first novel, The Room on the Roof, was written when he was just 17 years old. It was published when he turned 21 and he later won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for the novel. The story is loosely based on his life experiences—a fact that is an integral part of Bond’s storytelling. His latest book, Tales From My Heart, is a collection of stories about people, places and moments, which celebrate life.
Over the years, many of Bond’s works have been adapted into screenplays for films. The Blue Umbrella and 7 Khoon Maaf are two that have received commercial acclaim. Most recently, Parchhayee: Ghost Stories by Ruskin Bond, aired on streaming platform Zee5.
In the past year and a half when the world took to hobbies old and new, Ruskin Bond took his first steps on social media. “Though it has been a few years since I joined social media, I am still very much a technology illiterate. But I am happy to be more widely appreciated while maintaining my privacy,” He says. An extension of his taking to digital technology is his association with Unluclass, where he will be teaching writing to aspiring and amateur authors. “Over the years, I have given many tips in many interviews about how to better yourself as a writer. Having a collection of all of them certainly seems like the next best step to help aspiring writers. This is something of a first, and we will have to see where it goes from here,” he adds.
We had the opportunity to learn more from one of India’s favourite authors on what it is like to be a writer who has seen generations evolve and yet managed to stay relevant with his prose.
1. Every writer has a writing process. What is yours?
Figure out your story. I see my story like a movie in my head before I put pen to paper. That way, any writer’s block you hit melts away because you know for sure which direction the story is taking you. Plus, I like to keep my stories short, and about people.
2. What is your tried-and-tested remedy for writer's block?
I always have a wastepaper basket next to me when I’m writing. The best thing to do is discard the manuscript and revisit the story a few days later. There is nothing better than a fresh outlook, and a mind that has not thought about the story for a while.
Ruskin Bond’s favourite treats
I have always had a soft spot for gol gappas, alu tikkis and Cadbury’s chocolates. Freshly made cutlets on a rainy evening bring me comfort like no other!
3. How have you encapsulated your years of experience in online classes?
As a writer, you live through a lot of experiences. It is perhaps impossible to include all my learnings into one course, but I have included everything I have learnt from it. The do’s, the don’ts, the difficult lessons, the shortcuts. It is important to remember that my experiences will not shape how yours turn out. I have put my learnings in Unluclass and I want to inspire all those writers, young or old, to not fear writing but use it as the best medium to express themselves.
4. What is the difference between writing for children and for adults?
I believe that children are as developed as adults, but they are more fascinated by ghost stories and thrillers. While adults are used to the world around them.Stories about people, stories with loss, grief, dilemma, things that adults are more familiar with take centre stage with them. But I like to focus on what makes them similar. Both like a good story, and that is what I try to give them.
5. How can books and reading be an escape when one is feeling low, especially now when there is bad news all around us?
Reading by itself cannot be used as an escape. Imagination is what makes reading wonderful. A string of words cannot evoke a feeling unless you can imagine yourself as a part of it. More than the scientific reasons, the feeling of being lost in a story, and seeing it happening around you is exactly what you need when the world outside is bleak.
6. How do you find such joy in small things in life?
Enjoy what you do and be thankful for what you have. I enjoy writing. I have no doubt that I would be writing even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. I am thankful to be blessed with the ability to write, and most importantly to my readers who have read my works and continued to be my readers for so long.
7. Short attention spans have forced writing to evolve. What is your take on this?
It has always been a complaint from parents and teachers that their children do not seem to have the attention span to read. Unfortunately, this is true, but I am very happy to see that more and more children are taking to reading and writing now. New age authors are making it a point to keep their stories short and to the point, but more importantly, include elements that keep readers hooked. I suppose having easy access to books on your mobile or computer is an advantage.