A Beautiful Afternoon "Date with Ruskin Bond" in Doon
It was a very special Sunday afternoon for people of the Doon valley, especially for students of St Joseph’s Academy (SJA), one of the valley’s prestigious schools. For they got to spend time with their beloved, favourite author Ruskin Bond who was at the Green Bookshop (Natraj) to interact with the audience and sign books .
By noon, he arrived at the book shop in the heart of Dehradun and received a warm welcome. Students from the junior section of SJA were present along with their principal Brother Babu Varghese and high court justice Rajiv Sharma. Bond spoke to the children about his love for books, reading and writing. He said that he had always been a bookworm and this had inspired him to become a writer himself. He also narrated something which most people are not aware of till now. He spent exactly one day at St Joseph’s Academy as a student. “I was studying in Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. When I came to Dehradun for my holidays once, I did not feel like going back to this boarding school. So I told my mother and she got me admitted to SJA. I attended the school for one day and started missing my friends from Bishop Cotton. I went back to my school in Shimla!” This, Bond added, made him an “old boy” of SJA, in a way.
Brother Babu Varghese released Bond’s “Confessions of a Book Lover” on the occasion. By now, most of us know from Bond’s writings that he has been a great fan of Charles Dickens, especially David Copperfield with which he could identify himself easily. Here he tells us that Nicholas Nickleby was also his favourite –“full of humor,pathos and memorable scenes”.It was in the winter of 1948 -49 that Bond, still a school boy, discovered Dickens in an old cupboard in Dehradun. In this book , we come to know about Bond’s experience of reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and can identify with it completely.
It gripped him and he read it through a stormy night when he was a youngster.He read it again this year just to see whether it would hold him in the same way.And he discovered that it did! “Emily, the most gifted of the three Bronte sisters, in her brief tenure on this earth , had put everything into this one sizzling novel and left it behind to haunt posterity”, he writes. However, he does not give an extract from Wuthering Heights “You have to take it in one large dose, preferably late at night”.
Alongwith getting to know some of his beloved writers, we also get to know quite a bit about his life’s journey. He fell ill when he was in England for four years as a young man. While he was in Hampstead General Hospital for a month, a pretty nurse brought him a trolley of books. She was “a beautiful nurse who looked like Jennifer Jones , a film star of that era”, we are told.
This trolley had , among others , books by William Saroyan who had won a Pulitzer prize for his play “The Time of Your Life”. Bond says in this book that he loves to discover “the unusual, the little-known, the forgotten, and even the eccentric…sometimes a little gem turns up or a neglected masterpiece”.He gives us extracts from Conrad, HG Wells , William Saroyan and Laurence Sterne among others in this work.
Bond said today that he hoped that all these descriptions of his love for reading will inspire readers to “either go back to these fine writers or start hunting for their works on the Internet or on old library shelves.”
The little boys and girls asked questions like “When did you write your first book”, “Which was the second book” and “Which is your favourite from among your own books?” Bond bonds very well with children as he is childlike and spontaneous himself.
Tirelessly, he signed book for more than an hour and a half, writing each child’s name before giving his autograph. It was an interesting event and one could see the smallest fans of Bond around, clasping their autographed books carefully.
Bond was welcomed by Upendra Arora of the Green Bookshop, Veena Arora and Divya Arora .The date with the beloved author of Doon and Mussoorie was indeed a great success!
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