When you face a writer’s block, a good look and read of the Lone Fox Dancing, Speaking Tiger, Ruskin Bond’s autobiography will help you get over it. How? By reminding you that life’s simple pleasures are free and inspiration may just be round the corner.
It is as much a traversing of his personal journey as it is a tracking of the writers’ life and pen. Perseverance, getting up when the chips are down and soaring higher, finding peace in solitude while yearning for companionship, loneliness in boyhood and solitude in adulthood as he puts it- all find sufficient ink in is book.
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It is a book worthy of adorning your bookshelf even when you know much of Bond’s life and times, as you have been an avid guzzler of his books right from the ‘The Room on the Roof’. Rusty, Somi, Haripal, Daljit Krishen and Sushila et al, a motely, lively bunch that inhabited the writer’s world along with Ms Bun, Mr Muller and the many quasi-fictional maharajas and maharani, retired generals, vagrants in the valley (also a title of a book) that creep into his book- form a part of his autobiography.
Good to know, by his own admission, he chooses to sheath some details of his life away from the prying public eye too. Dwelling vividly on his early childhood, especially of the bond that he shared with his dad, when left mostly to his devices, as his mother had moved away by then. The indulgent father’s sketch emerges from the child’s eye and memory. Their fond trips to the cinemas, theatre, ice creams at Gaylords and Kwalitys etc., are the relief that comes before the morose and a dry account of the drudgery and dullness of young Bond’s stint in England, doing odd jobs along with a relaying of a concomitant struggle as a writer. The strained relationship with his immediate family and the resentment with the step brothers and father came to a boil in the sweltering heat of Delhi-only heightened by the cramped quarters of Patel Nagar and Rajouri Garden.
If you are Ruskin fan, as I am, you wouldn’t find many things new or revelatory in this one. But you will marvel yet again at the author’s reflective scenic descriptions or emotive sensitivity in sketching the characters. However, some characters are new and newer still is the description of his foray into odd jobs that he picks up to sustain himself. There is a simplicity of prose that is hard to find these days. He rightly calls himself a haberdasher of myriad wares, his wares here being words!
It is a story of how tenacity in a writer’s life is of prime importance and how lilies and crickets at night and grasshoppers may well provide you the necessary material for a novel – read dialogues and content. How nature and mountains are the last refuge of a sensitive soul and more importantly, how you don’t need much to get by – to live – really live before you die- literally!
A book that is a celebration of classy, gentle self deprecation, of wit and an objectivity and honesty that’s hard to come by in today’s writing. Of gentle souls and hardy ones, of tenacious broads and bawdy lawyers; of affairs of men and men’s affairs, of a slice of life from the hilly terrain, vividly painted as they appear to be in a kaleidoscope of panorama- of characters that could be well be you and I.