Over sixty years, for numerous readers—of all ages; in big cities, small towns and little hamlets—Ruskin Bond has been the best kind of companion. He has entertained, charmed and occasionally spooked us with his books and stories and opened our eyes to the beauty of the everyday and the natural world. He has made us smile when our spirits are low and steadied us when we’ve stumbled. Now, in this brilliantly readable autobiography—his book of…
As a kid I have always been fascinated by name of Ruskin Bond, though only heard about him that he stays in Mussorie, heard his few short stories but never read any of his books till about few years back when I interacted with him in Mussorie at a book store . There were many questions that used to come in mind about his life and story but like many I had concluded him as an Anglo-Indian who belonged to Mussorie. Well that is not the case. This book takes you through his life journey in a very different way than anyone can imagine and you can say a tumultuous one indeed right from Jamnagar, Dehradun, Delhi, Shimla, England and then finally to Mussorie.
He was born to English parents who got separated later. He stayed with his father until his death and his mother remarried and continued to stay in India. He describes an adorable relationship with his dad and how he groomed him in his childhood. He studied in Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, and was an avid footballer (a fact you take sometime to imagine as you have seen him since ages always as shown in cover). Subsequently, his life journey took him to various places of work including England wherein he was nearly settled but India called him back, so to say, and he became a legend thereafter.
This book is a must for any budding or established author. Not only does it give insights into how he got the plots of many of his stories but also about the struggles of being only an author and trying to make a living out of it. In his own words “I had no illusions about what lay ahead. But my lifelong feeling of insecurity had come up against a dream I had- an old dream of living only by my writing; a dream of freedom. Lack of money had made it difficult for me to realize it. But then, I knew that if I was going to wait for money to come, I might have to wait until I was old and grey full of sleep. If the dream is to become reality than this was the time to do something about it.”
It was a very difficult choice he made of leaving a well paid job in Delhi and moving to Dehradun and finally settled down in Maplewood, Mussorie to just write.
He says about his life, ‘As a boy- loneliness, As a man –solitude….The loneliness was not of my seeking. The soltitude I sought and found.’
Several characters come and go in the story- his childhood friends in Dehradun, his school friends in BCS, he fell in love twice and was close to getting married and then how he met and finally settled down with his adopted family.
He tells how Surekha Sikri used to be her neighbour in Mussorie and how he met Naseer-ud-din Shah. Major HPS Ahluwalia , whose book ‘Higher Than Everest’ I had reviewed some time back and my personal hero of sorts was Haripal his childhood doon friend who joined the army and became one of the first Indians to climb the Everest and received a gunshot in 1965 war, was confined to the wheel chair throughout his life, but he never gave up. He set up the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in New Delhi.
It gave me a nice feeling when I found my hometown Nahan mentioned in the book as a place where is his friend Kasper’s father worked in Nahan Foundary. Even his autobiography is not bereft of the Great Indian Saas Bahu saga where he mentions about his friend Kamal’s home and how he became confidant of all. His mother complains about the daughter-in-law and she complains about her and her husband how he never stands up for her in front of his mother.
The peculiar title of the book is drawn from a lone fox he saw dancing in mussorie and which he describes through a small poem
As I walked home last night
I saw a lone fox dancing
I the bright moonlight.
I stood and watched ,
Then took the low road, knowing
The night was his by right.
Sometimes, when words ring true,
I’m like a lone fox dancing
In the morning dew.
Indeed, he led a lonely life giving life to so many characters and stories. And the way he describes it, time in the hills moves at its own sweet pace- the seasons follow each other in a reassuringly predictable manner, the walnuts and chestnuts ripen and fall; we ripen too, in our own way and get a little older and not much wiser, blustering along but surviving somehow.