Raids coincided with a CPM protest against central agencies’ delay in ongoing probe
There was a phase in my life when to meet writers and artists I did everything: digging out addresses from diverse sources, and burning holes in my pocket, as I had to book hotels and travel often quite far from my home turf, and get train tickets at very short notice, sometimes in First class AC coach as tickets for lower classes were not available.
But I was so intensely involved in this self imposed task that nothing could deter me. However, God has always recompensed me in other ways. Apart from the satisfaction of being in conversation with writers and artists, I sometimes, as a happy bonus, had a walk or two with the likes of novelist I Allan Sealy and travel writer Bill Aitken after the interview was over.
Once, only once, I had the fortune to fall into step beside Ruskin Bond for a quarter of an hour and strike up a conversation. That distant afternoon Ruskin took me to his study-cum-bedroom in his Ivy Cottage. He sat on his revolving chair facing me away from the writing desk on which lay his papers, a few books, and the famed typewriter. When the interview ended, he showed me a copy of an article on him by me published in Garhwal Post the week before. I broached my request then. I knew he had an appointment to keep some where in the vicinity of his Cottage that day. I asked if I could accompany him a part of the way and he agreed!
When we stepped out, twilight was still a while away. There are exactly 22 steps down which we went, he first, me following. To the left the road went up towards Hotel Rokeby, and a little further up, Char Dukan, the famous snack shop. We turned right towards Landour bazaar. With him by my side, I’d no fear of losing my way. He took me through the short-cuts only seasoned hill people could know. Off and on he was being greeted by the natives of Landour and Ruskin responded to each one of them unfailingly. Along the way it occurred to me that had I forgotten to ask a few questions including about the books lying on his desk. So I asked: I saw a few books on your desk. Are you reading them?
“I’m basically reading old writers. One of them is a very good detective story: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Then there’s The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, and the other one The Man within my Head by Pico Iyer.” Have you read any novel by the Afghan American author Khaled Hosseini, particularly The Kite Runner or any book by other Pakistani writers?
“I read the one you mention. Afghanistan is a sad country, land of troubles. I also read Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid.” Quite a few scholars are now working on you …
“But it’s difficult to sell these books …”
Authors often complain about fudged royalty statements. What’s your take on that?
“It happens with the fly-by-night publishers, not with all. If they start doing that then they’re in difficulty. I’m a writer with no regrets. In fact I’m lucky enough to make a living doing it. When I started out writing was not a fashionable occupation, but publishing is a good business now. There’s a celebrity status to successful writing. Now people want to write books.”
When we reached the point to go our separate ways he said in his rich musical tone:
“Thank you for your visit. Have a good trip back!” The sound of his velvety voice still lingers in my ear. Ruskin Bond turned 88 this month.