New Delhi: Keeping children riveted to a book is not an easy task and requires responsibility and sensitivity, legendary author Ruskin Bond, who at 81 has more than 150 titles to his credit, says. The popular storyteller is also gratified by the fact that children’s literature has grown impressively and is now taken seriously by publishers.
"Writing for children is more responsible and one needs to be sensitive. If they don't find the first few pages interesting, they will keep it away," the uncannily witty Bond, who weaves magic with his pen, told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting with five children who have been selected in the 'Child Reading to Child' initiative of the Landmark bookstore chain.
Reading has always been a minority hobby even during his school days, though it has improved over the years.
"I often hear that reading habits of children today are affected by the internet and gizmos. During my schooltime, before the age of TV and the internet, there were very few kids who enjoyed reading. So I don't think it has to do anything with the internet," said Bond, who is warming up to the release of his new book "Rusty and the Magic Mountains" next month.
The author however added that children's literature has grown a lot in the last years.
"Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, children's literature is now being taken seriously by publishers. Thanks to the popularity of the English language, parents and teachers also want better writings for children," he said.
As he continues to win the hearts of his readers, what makes the author tick at 81? "I am a lazy writer. I write only two pages a day and I love to sleep. The number of books is accumulated over the years," said Bond, who has won multiple awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India and the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri - India's third and fourth highest civilian honours.
Some of his books which made their way to Bollywood are "The Blue Umbrella" (of the same title), "A Flight of Pigeons ("Junoon") and Susanna's Seven Husbands ("Saat Khoon Maaf").
"I played a cameo role in Saat Khoon Maaf directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. I was clumsy and they had to go for seven takes in the scene where I give a fatherly peck on Priyanka Chopra's cheeks. Now when I look back, I think it was a deliberate mistake made by my subconscious mind," Bond laughed.
The Kasauli-born writer, who has settled in Mussoorie, says that his first book, "The Room on the Roof", is always close to his heart and it's still in print after more than 60 years.
"I was sent to England in 1951 and I was feeling homesick. The book happened when I was there. I came back after five years and decided to settle in Mussoorie," he said.
Far from the madding crowd, Rusty (as he is fondly called) finds solace in the mountains and hills and they form the backdrop of most of his works. "I have been living here for many years. Mountains play a major role in my stories and my life. I am quite attached to them," Bond said.
Marriage did not happen by chance, said Bond. The readers will get a slice of his personal life from his autobiography which is slated to come out next year. "Marriage just didn't happen by chance. As a struggling young author I didn't have much money to support the family. I will share it all in my autobiography," Bond said.
He however has no regrets with his big adopted family around. "There is Rakesh, Mukesh and Savitri and they also have children. The family is growing every day. So I don't really live like a single old man," said Bond.