A cold wind blew, and I tightened my shawl. I was in scenic Landour, where the slopes abounded with Oaks and Deodars. The majestic snowclad Himalayan peaks stared at me from afar.
I trekked towards Ivy cottage, where my icon, Ruskin Bond lived. Accompanying me was his novella, ‘Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!’
Why was I here, anyway?
In my childhood, I aspired to be a writer after reading Ruskin’s works. Life chose a different path for me; I joined the rat race, my writing dreams forgotten. But now? All I wanted was to abandon my lucrative corporate career and become a writer.
In a moment of despair, I googled how to live my life, and the first thing that popped up was a book authored by……Ruskin.
Talk of signs.
Ruskin, at 88 years, was filled with joie de vivre, while I at 38, was clueless and unhappy.
Perhaps, he could motivate me to take the plunge?
I rang his doorbell with trepidation.
Would he introduce himself with a “Hello! The name is Bond. Ruskin Bond.”
I was greeted with silence. Ruskin must have stepped out for a walk. I made myself comfortable on the patio, admiring the colourful rhododendrons bobbing their heads in the wind. To kill time, I began reading my book. The characters came alive, and the story played out in front of me.
A young boy asked Ruskin to tell him a tale of jungles and wild beasts. Ruskin replied that he would, but the boy would have to decide on the ending. The narration began. In the voice of the master storyteller, I heard the tale of a tiger whose forests were encroached on by the villagers.
When the majestic creature made its entry, I felt goosebumps. The tiger headed to the stream in the forest, where the village boys bathed their buffaloes. As the beast approached near, the buffaloes bellowed, the boys shouted, and the birds flew shrieking from the trees. I became one with the tiger, moving slowly and calculatedly towards the water, ignoring the nervous onlookers.
After quenching its thirst, the tiger returned peacefully. This harmonious co-existence was disrupted when the villagers brought in a hunter to protect their buffaloes. The tiger was felled by a bullet, into the river.
Ruskin asked the boy what the ending should be. The boy suggested that the tiger was to survive, find itself a new forest, and start afresh.
I mulled over this ending. If Ruskin posed that question to me, what would I say? How would my story end?
Stuck in a soul-sucking job forever, thinking of could-have-beens? I was happy only when I weaved words into make-believe worlds. At that moment I realized that writing was my purpose, my verve, my raison d’être. The master had led me to my answer.
I headed off without meeting Ruskin, for I had much to do. I had a new forest to build and make my own. One day, I’d return to thank him in person.
This is purely a fictional account and my tribute to Author Ruskin Bond, whom I greatly admire.
Please do not turn up at his cottage unannounced! He is usually available at the Cambridge Book Depot, Mussoorie on second and fourth Saturdays.
Referenced in this work is ‘Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright’, and ‘How To Live Your Life’ by Ruskin Bond.
Joie de vivre is a French phrase used to express a cheerful enjoyment of life.
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