Meeting Ruskin Bond On my recent visit home, my Father and I decided to visit Massouri for a holiday. This was the only way my parents would take a holiday, plus I get a free one for myself. So leaving the itinerary to my father I decided to just be a passenger. But eventually as always I end up taking the driver’s seat with my zillion brilliant ideas.
On our way to Massouri we stopped in Dehradun for lunch at Kumar’s Hotel. Next to it was ‘The English book Depot’ and I ventured in. On one of its walls there were pictures of famous Dehradun writers. There I saw Ruskin Bond's picture hanging and it hit me ‘YES! Ruskin Bond lives here.. GREAT, I have to meet him!!’ I asked the guard where Ruskin Bond stays, he very politely replied that he stays in Massouri. If I visit Cambridge book shop at the Mall road in Massouri, I can get to see him or enquire his whereabouts.
This was an opportunity and I was not going to miss it for the world. We reached Massouri and the first stop was the Mall Road where I walked around searching for the Cambridge Bookshop. It was stacked in a nook amongst the wall to wall shops, bursting at the seams with piles of books. There was a poster on display stating that the author Ruskin Bond meets his fans every Saturday at the Cambridge Shop. But today was Sunday...grrrrr..
I went inside to check on a possibility to meet Ruskin Bond. The shop owner, a very courteous old man, told me that Ruskin does visit there and he is planning to get him again in the coming week for the Independence day. I asked him if I could meet him at his place. He wrote the address on a piece of paper and said that Ruskin's phone is not working so he is not sure if it will be possible to meet him. I thanked him profusely for his gesture. He further offered if I would like to buy signed copies of Ruskin's books. The practical me picked up two, just in case I meet him I will get him to sign the book again and if not I will still have a signed copy.
Next day I dragged my parents to the Ivy Cottage in Lantour defence colony to get a glimpse of Ruskin. They had never even heard about him but they were OK with the fact that it was a learned author and not some freaky Bollywood star that I am trying to meet. We went all over the place... Few guys knew the place so after a few wrong turns and reverses we found a steep turn, from where a local said that it was two kms walk. Abandoning my old parents, I decided to walk the distance as the path was too steep for the car. My overprotective father agreed to my idea because but on one condition that I should take the driver along. DAAAAADDDD!! I live alone in an alien city and you wouldn't allow me to walk alone for just two kms... But you just can't argue with parents.
Me tagged with the poor driver started the climb, when I saw an aged woman watching us from her house. I thought what's the harm lets check once again. I shouted asking if she knew where Ruskin stayed. She replied... "He stays just behind my house." What!! As in where I had left my parents waiting.. Thank god we had hardly covered any distance. She further said she was herself planning to go there. I said then why don't you join us. She jumped at the offer and came down to join us. She was Mrs Arora, neighbor of Ruskin Bond and my guide for the moment.
My parents seemed pleased to see me return with a nice elderly lady in tow. By now they were convinced that the author must be a nice learned man and they wanted to go along. We reached the Ivy cottage and climbed the stairs. Mrs Arora knocked on the door. A woman with a wide forehead, big eyes and lot of vermilion peeped from the door. Mrs Arora offered to speak to her privately to get us an entry. They discussed and then the woman told me "Dadaji has just gone to sleep and I can't wake him."
Small part of my heart broke and I felt sad for Ruskin so old and tired to meet his fans. It made me even more sad to think that I may not meet him ever and how I was just standing at his door at a distance of a few meters but couldn't reach him. I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I thought he was a simple approachable guy and anyone could reach him, but then nothing and noone is easy.
I did not want to meet the script writer of the films ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ (Susanna’s 7 husbands) or ‘Blue Umbrella’. I wanted to meet the creator of Rusty who grew up free in the wilderness and through whom I travelled to the lush green mountains full of childhood adventures. I wanted to meet the writer of the scary hill station stories. I read ‘A Face in the dark’ when I was very young but I still get nightmares and fear to walk alone in the dark, lest I find the faceless one or he finds me.
I don’t remember when I first read his books but it was around when I had just started reading. The compulsory library period, where most of the girls in the convent chose MBs, Secret Seven and Hardy Boys for a piece of a glamorous Western life. I quietly picked up a Ruskin Bond, for the simplicity and earthiness of Indian life. I believe every child should read Ruskin, it’s like gifting a beautiful early memory - That's lush, fresh and wild just like the hills. The memories of childhood that shall stay forever and come back every time one looks at the hills. From comic books and Enid Blyton, I moved to Ruskin Bond, before entering the world of Bronte, Ayn Rand and Indian fiction. But my childhood memories are colored with Rusty and the hills.
For a not so adventurous child who didn't like to play sports but observe nature and people Ruskin's books provided a window to a free world with no restrictions from parents or burdens of studies from school. He was a free spirit and called out to you to fly with him....
I couldn't meet Ruskin Bond but in my mind I have met Rusty a many times... Take care Rusty... Take care of the hills...