Never despair and keep at it: Ruskin Bond

By Garima Dutt | Last Updated: Dec 16, 2015, 16:09 PM IST

What more can one ask for when you get to spend a Monday evening, hearing one of the finest minds in literature - the elusive, but warm Ruskin Bond! An inspirational evening that I am sure to remember for a lifetime.

At 81, Ruskin Bond can perhaps fool you with his slow gait, but that’s until you hear his deep voice that gives you a glimpse of his youthful spirit. You know you are in good company for the next two hours.

Joyous, full of insightful tips on writing, sprinkled with liberal doses of gentle humour, anecdotes from his childhood and life lessons – that was an evening spent listening to the delightful Ruskin Bond talk on the ‘Joy of Writing’ at the 2015 Penguin Annual Lecture.

But to paraphrase what he said would lessen the pleasure for the readers.

Here are some excerpts from his lecture on a ‘chilly evening’, warmed in the writer’s own words by ‘a warm audience’ and as many of us in the audience felt - by a warmer, humble speaker.

On Joy of Writing

“When I was a boy, I was a big reader as I think any writer would be and amongst the many authors that I liked there was one called AA Milne who wrote essays, short stories, plays, detective novel etc. He really enjoyed writing. But perhaps much to his chagrin, he is only remembered for one small children’s story that he wrote on his son’s teddy bear – ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

The other day I was thinking about Lewis Caroll. He was a professor of mathematics and described as a dull fellow by everyone. He loved writing. He loved writing books on mathematics until one day he wrote ‘Alice in Wonderland’ which struggled to find a publisher for almost two years. (But today it is celebrated across the world).

Well that’s the reality, the irony of life. And the irony of many writers and writing life too. Sometimes you put your heart and soul into something and it may not be appreciated and something else you have written and pass aside, might become really special for all.”

“As a child, keeping a list of books I read, films I’d seen set me off on the habit of writing. Later, I began to keep a journal to take notes. I feel for a writer, a window is very important. My window looked out on the trees and I could see all kinds of birds, insects, plants, small creatures, even large ones. ...the nature, the joy of hearing a child’s laughter, my childhood, my dreams – they all form a significant part of my writing. ...some of my early stories are based on dreams. My more romantic stories were actually my dreams. ...if you are a writer, you would want to look at life as though you are looking at it for the last time and then you would probably appreciate it more.”

Message to Aspiring Writers

“I am not by nature a lecturer. I used to resent being lectured to when I was in school, so I was a little apprehensive specially now when I see so many of you here. I think there are amongst you many who are aspiring writers, or have already written books, or plan to write books or are in the process of writing them. So if anything that I can say to help you or encourage you on the way I would be very happy to be that person. ...to write well, it is very important to read, to be a lover of books. Secondly, the most important thing is to respect the language you write in. Don’t be careless with your grammar and composition. It is also very important for you to find your own voice, your own style. ...don’t get discouraged. Never despair. And even if you do, continue working. And above all, enjoy your writing.”

Post his lecture, Mr Bond settled into a conversation with journalist and TV presenter Sunil Sethi. When asked about his fascination for ghosts, he smiled and said, “Well, you don’t have to believe in ghosts. You can choose to see a ghost when you want to.”

As I sat there listening to this magical storyteller, I realised his inherent joie de vivre, his love for life is the force that has kept him going for 65 years. And true to his nature, he let us partake of it in the most pure and simple manner.