The name’s Bond, Ruskin Bond

The name’s Bond, Ruskin Bond

The three winners of a nation-wide reading competition were ready early. Jiya from Mumbai, Shlok from Pune and Vaishnavi from Hyderabad did not want to be late for the prize of their lifetimes — meeting their favourite author Ruskin Bond! Jiya was accompanied by her grandmother, Shlok by his mother and Vaishnavi had arrived with her father.

We reached early too — much before the lingering ghosts (more on that later!) and the monkeys (even more on them later!) did, waiting patiently at the bottom of the 22 red steps leading up to Mr Bond’s residence in Landour. The weather was obligingly gorgeous, the mood obviously upbeat, the view stupendous. And then there was a shout from up above. Looking up, we all saw a head that belonged to the ever-so-patient Reliable Rajesh, asking us to come up. We trundled up the stairs to be met by the man himself.

After the initial shyness, questions were flying. “What make you write?” What inspires you?” “Which is your favourite book?” etc, etc. Mr Bond answers were practical, laced with typical wry humour. “Never write about your relatives, until they are dead,” he advised. “I made that mistake!” And, “Never write about your teachers either!”

One reason why Mr Bond had managed to get his place ‘cheap’, or so he said, was because the bottom floor of the building that he finally moved into, used to be a mortuary, where the British soldiers’ bodies used to be dumped after they had died at the hospital close by where they’d be sent to convalesce from whichever Front they had got injured at. Half the time the children and I could not tell whether he was just making the incident up or whether it was true. No way of telling really. I half-thought that we’d probably find the incident turning up in the next book he was penning!

And then, the rafters started shaking mildly, at which Mr Bond vaguely looked up and said, “There they go again.” Was he referring to the live-in ghosts or the monkeys who had stolen his massive trousers once! He wondered aloud as to which of the local monkeys could have fitted into his trousers! And if any of you have had a look at even a picture of Mr Bond, you’d know what he was talking about!

“Oh, by the way,” he said, “these monkeys even use my phone!” This time he looked very serious. “Maybe they call up their distant relatives in Africa, long distance,” he said thoughtfully.

The children looked at each other. This was even better than they had expected! They would have so many stories to tell about Mr Bond when they went back to their respective cities.

I wondered aloud as to whether that was the reason I could never get through to him on his phone. “Most probably,” he said, nodding wisely. Incidentally, Mr Bond does not use a mobile phone, which is why Rajesh’s phone is constantly ringing instead.

At the end of an enthralling two hours of fun, questions and laughter, made possible by the joie de vivre of an 84-year-old, the most famous children’s writer in the land, we all reluctantly left. Salute, Mr Bond! May your tribe increase!

 

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