The last few days were tough. There were thick clouds of uncertainty, the darkness of despair and the gloom of loneliness. The feeling enveloped me soon after a beautiful trip down south. I had been planning the trip for months, and now that it was over, I suddenly felt lost and directionless. And then there was getting back to the grind: the girls' school, boy's office, home, work, family, responsibilities. How could I not be bogged?
Finally the sun shines. There is nothing that a smile, a little love, a long heart-baring conversation cannot counter. If by chance all of it fails, try seeking refuge in your favourite author's works. In my case, it happens to be Ruskin Bond.
I love Mr Bond. And today, on his birthday, I am thinking of him. He is the reason I started to read, he is the reason I started to write. He is one of the few writers who have the ability to hold my attention.
One reason I admire his work is because his stories are not rooted in fantasy: he tells real stories of real people and places.
"Ruskin Bond writes about his hardships and his struggles too, but hardly romanticises them."
In the introduction to one of his masterpiece collections Friends In Small Places, for example, he says, "Somerset Maugham liked writing about the people he met. So did Maupassant and Chekhov. That is why their stories are never dull. They wrote about real people. I find most people interesting, the dull ones are those whose lives are too orderly or those who are forever boasting of the ease with which they have succeeded in life."
I agree. What's the fun of a perfect life? It will be one long, boring story.
It is often difficult to determine if a writer's life is as romantic as the world makes it out to be or as difficult as the writers themselves claim it to be. Thanks to the stories they tell, the many affairs they have, or the underlying sense of unfulfillment that runs through all their tales, writers often earn a romantic tag. From what I understand though, a writer's life is often more difficult than romantic. What the world sees is the result of years of toil, patience, loneliness and uncertainty -- the success. What the world fails to see is what goes into making them successful -- the hard work.
Ruskin Bond writes about his hardships and his struggles too, but hardly romanticises them. His hardships -- and he has had many -- are beautifully entwined in his stories, making an appearance once in a while as a matter of fact and not as a theme he dwells upon. The most fascinating part about his writings remains the biographical and autobiographical elements, and the number of times he falls in love.
Until, I started to write, I often wondered how he managed to fall in love so often. But the truth is: all of us, at various points in our lives, fall in love, sometimes over and over again. And when we do, the age does not matter; neither does the social standing or marital status. These external factors just restrain us from its expression and often, even acceptance. But one can fall in love many times over, with the same sincerity and passion.
So, Mr Bond falls in love too -- when he is a teenager, when he is a young writer in England, when he returns to India and lives in shanty rooms on the roofs and even when he is 43. And most of the time with women much older or much younger than him. Age does not hamper his passion; it only guarantees heartbreaks and abrupt endings.
"Mr Bond falls in love too -- when he is a teenager, when he is a young writer in England, when he returns to India and lives in shanty rooms on the roofs and even when he is 43."
But while he is in love, it is all encompassing, in one of his stories he confesses to having ignored his typewriter and writing altogether. In another he travels all the way to Delhi to get a glimpse of the girl he wants to marry -- who, by the way, is less than half his age and still in school. In the same story he goes on to say, "What else can one say, I love you, I love you. There is nothing simpler; nothing that can be made to mean any more than that. And what else did I say, that I would look after you and work for you and make you happy; and that too had been said before, and I was in no way different from anyone. I was a man and yet I was a boy again." and then later in the story "I may stop loving you, but I will never stop loving the days I loved you."
Then there is The Girl From Copenhagen, where he spends two days and a night with an unknown girl. "We made no promises - of writing, or of meeting again. Somehow our relationship seemed complete and whole, as though it had been destined to blossom for those two days. A courting and a marriage and a living together had been compressed, perfectly, into one summer night."
There are many, many other beautiful stories and passages that I can share, but for now, I must read and practice-- the art and craft of telling stories.
Before signing off, one last passage from his latest collection. "Falling in love is probably the best thing that can happen to a writer; it gives a certain spontaneity and intensity to his writing." And "My life has been one long love story, and I have loved people, I have loved flowers, the sun, the moon and stars, old roads, old trees, children, grannies, butterflies, seashells, fairies... And of course I keep falling in love, for where love begins, there is the border of heaven."
To many more such love stories... and to Mr Bond, on his birthday.