Bond on AIR

Ruskin Bond makes lockdown days bearable with a new book and a new radio show

70-Ruskin-Bond Ruskin Bond | Aayush Goel

Hello, Bond here.” There are very few sentences that have an ability to instantly lift spirits. The voice of Ruskin Bond—clear, warm and calm—rings out from a chilly afternoon in Landour in Uttarakhand, bringing with it the whoosh of fresh mountain air. He has just woken up. “I am the world’s greatest sleeper,’’ he chuckles. “I sleep at all times of day and night.’’ It is exactly four o’clock. The heater is on even in the middle of May in the hill station that Bond calls home. Vividly recreated in his writing, Bond has transported children for decades to his world—filled with ghosts, small gestures of kindness, of birds, walks, flowers and forests. Bond turned 86 on May 19. But, he has the energy of a three-year-old. The frequent naps aside, he has just finished reading the biography of Edgar Allan Poe. A new book, Miracle at Happy Bazaar, is out. And he will also be waking up children and putting them to bed, courtesy All India Radio. The series, called 'Bonding over Radio', will be broadcast at 7:10am and 10:10pm every day.

“All I have to do is to pick up the phone as I am doing now in my right hand and hold the book in my left hand,’’ Bond says. The radio, which had been part of his childhood, is no longer his companion. “But I am getting a lot of feedback,’’ he says. “A lot of kids and older people are writing back, which are relayed to me. I have been enjoying it. I like reading out aloud. I do it at noon.’’

The lockdown has turned him towards TV. He “roams the news channels,’’ he chuckles. “You want to keep up with what is happening. I used to watch television, but sports mostly. But, now there is not much sport, unless you want to watch Mohinder Amarnath in the 1983 World Cup.’’

Bond’s life, however, has not altered much. “As a writer, I have always worked from home,’’ he says. “Most of my adult life I have written sitting at my desk in the bedroom,’’ he says. But the quiet has brought alive a different world. Even in Landour, which in a way has defiantly survived the onslaught of the fast-paced world, the odd horn outside his window has become silent. “Early morning there are all sorts of birds coming,’’ he says. The view from his window in his bedroom is familiar to anyone who has read him. A bit of everything: road, the valley, the hills and the rivers. Birds, that used to stay away, are no longer shy and find their way to his window. “The birds are having a great time. So, we have been seeing orange minarets,’’ Bond says. “All kind of small birds, wagtails.”

Bond has this ability to use the everyday ordinariness of life to turn it into philosophy. His writing, like his conversation, is peppered with humour, gentle observation and his childhood. “I have a good memory of the childhood,’’ he says. “Of growing up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, in Delhi during World War II.’’

Miracle at Happy Bazaar, published by Rupa, is a peek into his childhood again. He writes about his father, his death, the relationship with his mother and “Breakfast to Barogue’’ to create an enchanting world. In the foreword to his book, Bond writes, “I grew up too quickly. By the time I was 13, I was no longer a boy. By the time I was 16 I was earning a living—and a year later I was living on my own.”

His childhood, brief as it may have been, has allowed millions to be forever young. His memory is still vivid.

Bond has not visited Shimla or Barogue for 20 years. “I like to recall those days and recreate the atmosphere. The older you are the more you have to write about,’’ he says. Bond, certainly does.