The first time I was lucky enough to meet Ruskin Bond at close quarters was about ten years ago at a bookshop in Mussoorie. As I pick up the phone to call the 82-year-old at his residence in the hills, his many well attended appearances at literary meets— including him singing Sar Jo Mera Chakraye at the Jaipur lit fest this year—come to mind. Telling me about his morning spent outside an ATM which had no money followed by a lunch with author Gurcharan Das, Bond is his charming self as he speaks to me about his new novel, his writing process and why he doesn’t tweet.
Bond’s latest, Death Under the Deodars: The Adventures of Miss Ripley Bean, is a collection of stories set in the ’60s and ’70s in Mussoorie. The author starts off by saying, “They are not exactly detective stories but sort of mysteries or murders set up here and I told them through the medium of this elderly lady. They are a blend of mystery and humour, and I had fun writing them.” On shifting genres from adventure and romance to murder mysteries, he says, “I try doing different things from time to time.” So what is next? “Let’s see. I have done poetry, I have done essays, I have done romantic novels. Something wicked, maybe,” he says. And one genre that he would never like to dabble in? “Politics,” he laughs.
Wording it right
The Dehradun-based author, who has been writing for 60-odd years, still writes all his manuscripts by hand. He says that while short stories take a couple of days to be written, a full-fledged novel takes him a few months. A chance remark about Shimla has the author reminiscing, “I had a girlfriend in Auckland House. The school’s headmistress intercepted one of my soppy love letters and sent it back to my headmaster. I was summoned to his office and told to stop writing letters to ‘girls in Auckland House’. I said, ‘Sir, I am not writing to girls, I have only one girl,” he says, with a laugh.
Currently working on an autobiography, scheduled to be launched next year, there is also a children’s book which is “half done”. I ask the Room On the Roof author about his all-time favourite writers and we find that he has a long list that includes PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham and Charles Dickens, besides many others. On his two-tweet strong Twitter account which he opened recently but has hardly used since, he signs off by saying, “I am not the twittering sort you know. I don’t have time for it really. And then, who am I to impose my thoughts and views on the rest of the world? If I have something to say, I will put it down on paper.”
Published by Penguin Random House. Rs 399. Details: amazon.in