t’s not difficult to spot
Ruskin Bond in Mussoorie or
The Writer’s Bar at the
Savoy Hotel on Mall Road has
a wall dedicated to authors
with a Mussoorie connection
— Ruskin Bond’s name is
right at the center.
At the Cambridge Book
Depot, the entire front section
is devoted to his books. Every
With over 130 books, Bond is one of
India’s most prolific writers — if not the
most prolific — and has lived in Mussoo-
rie and Dehradun for almost all his life.
‘I had no ambition to be a great writer,
or even a famous one, or even a rich one.
All I wanted was to write,’ he wrote in
one of his earlier stories. For a writer
whose stories have been loved by three
generation of readers, adulation comes
aplenty, even at the cost of his privacy
that he cherishes enormously. Tourists
often arrive unannounced, and at
unearthly hours. Some even at 6.30 am.
He had given me an appointment after
I sent him a handwritten letter. He is
friendly, wears cute slip-ons with brown
bears and asks if we’ve had breakfast on
a Sunday morning at his home in
His home on the second floor, up a red
flight of stairs is cozy with yellow and
orange walls. Heaps of books meet your
eyes wherever you look, his Padma Shri
hangs in a corner (He was also honored
with a Padma Bhushan last year.)
“I used to see the valley clearly, now it
is hazy. If I leave the windows open,
His writing table is placed opposite the
window. A small bed next to it.
“It’s conveniently situated, when I get
drowsy I sleep,” he chuckles, standing
beside that writing desk from where he
has written scores of wonderful stories.
It is covered with books and papers, with
literally only a corner left vacant.
“I just have a little corner left to write,”
he says, showing me the first page of his
biography, written in beautiful handwriting with a blue pen. He has only
reached till age 8 and has seven more
decades to cover.
I feel a thrill looking at the first chapter called First Loves.
Chatting with him was discovering all
over again the world he has introduced
so many Indians to through his simple
and brilliant storytelling.
What is the most interesting thing a fan
has said to you?
There was this little girl in a school in
In Landour Days you wrote that once
Delhi. I was interacting with the class
and the teacher asked, ‘What do you
think of Mr Bond as a writer?’
She thought about it, looked me up
and down and said, ‘Sir, you are not a
bad writer.’ I take that as a compliment.
when you checked into a hotel, the
receptionist asked, ‘When did you arrive
Yes, that was in Delhi. Now of course
everyone has to produce ID — back at
that time we didn’t have to — and they
kept asking me when did you arrive in
India? So, I finally said I arrived in India
in 1934 — by stork!
Does this still happen to you?
Lot of people now know. I was at Delhi
airport recently and the chap who checks
your security (at the entrance) saw my ID
and said, ‘Ruskin Bond, you are a writer.’
He wasn’t a reader but he knew. Lot of
people recognize me that’s true.
How do you handle fame?
I don’t handle it (laughs). I ignore it.
It’s nice people come up and say hello
and chat, but not at 6 in the morning! A
few weeks ago, it was 6.30 am we were
all asleep, a car stopped, some tourists
came to the door and said, ‘We are on
our way to Dhanaulti and thought we’ll
just see Ruskin Bond first.’
Beena (his adopted family member)
said of course not and sent him away
(laughs). So, sometimes it is irritating.
If I am having a bath in my kaccha
baniyan or writing and someone comes
pounding at the door (laughs). And they
all say but we’ve come all the way from
Bangalore or Bombay, and I think it’s
not my fault. (laughs)
So, do you have many visitors coming
by at your door?
Not so much now because it’s off season but yes, during summer.
Once you returned from England after
spending three years there, you never left
That’s true. I came back in 1955 and am
still here. Except for short visits to Nepal
or Dubai but not for long stays — no.
In fact, it was a nightmare for me the
thought that I might have to go back because I wasn’t particularly happy in England. I can’t say I was unhappy but I was so
much happier here that the thought of
going there again didn’t excite me.
Did you choose Landour or did
Landour choose you?
I chose Mussoorie for practical reasons. Having grown up in Dehradun, I
knew the area.
I came to this house in 1980. First as a
tenant, then after few years, I managed
to buy this upper storey.
In a way I came to Landour looking for
accommodation. It is different from
Mussoorie. It is 1,000 feet higher than
the Mall Road in town. It is quieter. It’s
not built up being a cantonment area,
although people get away with adding
things here and there.
After living and working in Delhi for 4-
5 years, I made my great escape to the
hills but I still wanted to be in touch with
publishers/editors and Mussorrie was
closer to Delhi than other hill resorts.
Many of your stories are set in trains,
stations. What are your memorable train
There was a very long one to Bombay I
remember. It was the Emergency, when
someone in Bombay had brought a case
against me for writing a story they said
was obscene. It’s called The Sensualist
and had been published in Debonair
when Vinod Mehta was the editor. I had
to keep going there to appear in court.
It was published later by Penguin. It’s
a short novella but the case dragged on
for two years. Then the judge finally said
he had enjoyed the story and it wasn’t
So much what is written now is far
LEGEND M2 THE MAGAZINE
more if not obscene but more explicit.
India Abroad February 27, 2015
‘If I can’t write, I might
as well be dead’
India’s most loved
into his home
Ruskin Bond, the writer of over 130 books, at his home in Landour.