As the car swerved uphill and stopped with a jerk, I got out nervous, yet hopeful.I was going to meet my literary mentor, whom, to put it euphemistically, I adored, Ekalavya-like.I was early by 30 minutes, but Bina, daughter-in-law of his adopted family welcomed me.I stood before him, gaze downcast and tongue-tied. I opened my suitcase, half the contents were for him-i literally knelt at his feet and offered him blue(his favorite color) socks, blue pullover, and a cap. Next were soaps, a Ganesha(his chosen Lord) diary, a fancy pen stand and a Parker pen.Both of us avoided direct eye contact.Ruskin Bond’s rock-like silence could have crushed me but for genial Bina…
She asked me if I had eaten. I mumbled that I was carrying my lunch.Over lunch, he licked my ginger pickle and slowly thawed, like the snow of his homeland, Mussorie. In the three hours that I spent with him, Ruskin Bond told me that his literary characters are shaped by the real people he encounters. I expressed my trepidation, “Mr. Bond, I recall you describing a School Principal as having a ‘lettuce-shaped’ face…I wonder what you will call me!” He giggled as he softly said,”You will know… and I definitely won’t compare you to any vegetable!”
Thank God, he gave me a joke and a compliment as takeaways. He told me it was hard to carry cash in trains (Being an earth sign, Taurus, he hates flights and escalators). To my query,”Where do you hide your money?” he chuckled, “In the underwear!” Next, I asked him haltingly, “Please give me a frank feedback on my writing and the magazine I edit. His lips parted in a gentle curve, like his cursive handwriting,”Your poetry is lyrical, like Sarojini Naidu, you must sing it! And for a mission magazine, you are far from preachy!” He came to see me off and blushed like a beetroot with my _pranams_.
I gathered that Mr. Bond is a resolute recluse and painfully uncommunicative verbally by nature.Right in my presence, the Uttarakhand Tourism Department requested him to be the face of their state, which he flatly refused.
This has nothing to do with the stiff upper lip of the British though.
There is a gentleness and humility about him that comes across with the _pahadis_. He also “talks” tenderly to the trees, flowers, mountains and is a ‘plant whisperer’ of sorts.
Undoubtedly Ruskin Bond is better to read than heard..but I lucked out with him for after the initial awkward silence, he opened up…
*WHAT* a humdinger of a lifetime’s experience!-