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Celebrating 82 years of India's Wordsworth - Ruskin Bond

Sanjana Ray
21st May 2016
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Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much.- Ruskin Bond

Bear-claw necklaces, blue umbrellas, night trains at Deoli and lazy afternoons spent at Grandfather’s Private Zoo, Ruskin Bond’s stories offered us an escape into a parallel literary world. Having authored over 130 books, Ruskin is known for his style of writing that leaves us with a sense of nostalgia for the unknown and a quaint need to relive the words in his pages.

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Winner of the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards, the internationally celebrated author confesses that it wasn’t that fun a ride on his road to success.

Born in Kasauli, in 1934, to Edith Clarke and Aubrey Bond, Ruskin would often live out of a suitcase due to the unpredictable schedule of his father who served in the Royal Air Force. Watching his parents break down an already tumultuous marriage wasn’t easy for six-year-old Ruskin. Divorce papers were signed once he turned seven and his mother moved out. Ruskin often talks about his complicated relationship with his mother admitting to have grown distant from her, thanks to her prolonged absences.

However, he would dote on his father and the two shared an extremely special relationship. When he turned 10, his father succumbed to a bad bout of jaundice and his tragic demise left Ruskin broken. It was then that he moved to Dehradun to his grandparent’s house and started penning his endearing childhood stories.

At a time when India was recovering from its colonising forces, Ruskin defied norms and declared his dream of being a writer. He was scoffed at by those around him and asked to join the Army like the other boys. But Ruskin knew what he had to do and he knew well that it wouldn’t be easy. Most of Ruskin’s protagonists, too, much like him, were constantly stuck in such moral dilemmas and had to make some tough choices.

Having always been a wild child with a colourful imagination, Ruskin began to weave the magic of his stories right from his teen years while studying at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He started working on his first novel, The Room on the Roof, at 17. What many may not be aware of is that the novel was based on instances from the author’s life. The story revolved around the life of an orphaned Anglo-Indian teenager who runs away from his strict guardians to slum it out in a tiny room on a friend’s roof.

Ruskin often speaks about the many struggles, rejections and failures he had to undergo in the early years of his shaky career. However, the tide was to turn in his favour. Although his first novel was published only four years following its inception, it was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial prize. Encouraged by this, he set out to write its famous sequel, Vagrants in the Valley.

Despite this success, money still fell short. Ruskin worked as a journalist in Delhi and Dehradun for a few years, where he got to interview some big names like Indira Gandhi and Padmaja Naidu. In 1963, he moved to Mussourie, in the Himalayan foothills, where he began to write freelance.

Since then his career rocketed and he published some of his best works like A Flight of Pigeons, Funny Side Up, Blue Umbrella and My Grandfather’s Private Zoo.

A hearty laugh, a jolly belly and a mind full of stories, Ruskin, even at 82, inspires his readers to look at the brighter side of life through his delightful writing. If you pay close attention you’ll realise that even in the darkest, most tragic and romantic scenarios he plays out in his stories, Ruskin always leaves us with a mingled sense of hope and belief in the good.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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