A skit on teachers cost him his school-leaving certificate

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 08 Desember 2013 | 22.23

The day he finished school, Ruskin Bond's mother asked what his future plans were. "I'm going to be a writer, mum," he declared. "Don't be stupid," his mother scolded. "Go and join the army."

A career as a writer wasn't considered sensible in the 1950s, recalled Bond in an interview. But over six decades, and hundreds of short stories, poems and novellas later, it certainly has been an enormously inspiring one.

Bond writes on nature, the oddities of daily life, and the themes of home, belonging and love. Whether it's the bumbling beetle from Book of Nature wandering in through the window one rainy night, the bittersweet whatifs of The Night Train At Deoli or the tapestry of childhood recollections in Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra, Bond's stories are peopled with unforgettable moments. It's been over sixty years since your first published story. Tell us about the early days.

I began writing stories shortly after I finished school. Although I didn't make a living from doing that till I was a little older. But my very first short story was published the year I left school, in the Illustrated Weekly of India. It got me into trouble in school because it was a skit on one of my teachers, and so they didn't send my school-leaving certificate. That was 1951. I am still waiting for it! Maybe one of these days, I'll send them a reminder.

But shortly after that, I went to England, and started on my first novel. I was about 18 when I found a publisher for it. In those days, you got an advance of 50 pounds. It was enough to bring me back to India. The fare was about 40 pounds then. So I arrived in what was then called Bombay with 10 pounds, got home to Dehradun, and started freelancing. Was it difficult getting published then?

Not in magazines or the papers because there were a lot of them. But we didn't have any book publishers around except for textbook publishers. If I wrote something that was book-length, I still had to look abroad for a publisher. Only in the mid-80s, I think, we had publishers here bringing out general fiction. How do you continue to find new ideas and inspiration?

You have got to be interested in people in order to write stories. And as you get older, you have got more to write about. More memories, more people you know. Getting old is not a disadvantage for a writer. When I started off writing when I was 17 or 18, what could I write about? My football skills or quarrels at home or the kind of headmaster we had!

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