After enthralling readers for 60 long years with over a hundred novellas, short story collections, non-fiction and poetry, author Ruskin Bond now gifts his fans an autobiography — the longest book ever written by him.
"Lone Fox Dancing", published by Speaking Tiger and priced at Rs 599, allows the readers a peek into the life of the author who has penned many popular books such as "The Room on the Roof", "Tales of Foster", "The Blue Umbrella" and "The Night Train at Deoli".
Compelling and emotional, the autobiography is a page-turner. In 272 pages, the book spans 83 colourful years of Bond's life when he ended up becoming one of India's best known writers.
Neatly divided into four parts, the autobiography elaborates the conventional life of Bond. It talks about Kasauli where he was born, his idyllic childhood in Jamnagar by the Arabian Sea where he composed his first poem, his boarding school days in Shimla and winter holidays in Dehradun and Delhi in the early 1940s where he found material for his first short story.
"Almost everything I have written has been drawn from my own experiences, and in that sense, fragments of my autobiography are scattered everywhere in my novels, stories, essays and poems. But there is more imagination than truth in them," Bond writes in his prologue.
"An autobiography must stay closer to the truth — even though memory is unreliable and certain things must be disguised or omitted in order to avoid hurting people or embarrassing them unduly. So, this book is about how things happened to me — more or less. It is the story of a small man, and his friends and experiences in small places," he writes.
The bonus in the autobiography is 50 pictures of Bond, some never seen before.
The book also talks about the phase when his parents got separated and he longed for companionship and security. He writes about the difficult four years that he had to spend in Britain from 1951 to 1955 and writing the classic novel "The Room on the Roof".
"The lone fox still dances occasionally, but at eighty-three he is not as agile as he used to be," Bond writes in epilogue.
"And it is late evening in Landour. A misty, apricot light suffuses the horizon. Down in the villages the apricots are ripening. A small boy brought me the fresh fruit this morning – still very sour, very tangy, but full of promise. And if apricots could take precedence over missiles, the world would be full of promise too. I'm afraid science and politics have let is down. But the cricket still sings on the window-sill," he says.
Bond has been living in a "shaky house" at the edge of a spur in Landour, near Mussoorie, for the last 36 years, surrounded by generous trees, elusive big cats, new friends and his adopted family.