Confessions Of A Book Lover: A Book That Celebrates Ruskin Bond’s Journey

Ruskin Bond is the man who taught us to be down-right involved into a story and traverse through its highs and lows. He is the man who has unravelled closet writers out of their hiding & into the world out there. Born on 19th May 1934, this prodigy is a sensation with Children’s Books, which also have been proudly included into the modules of academics. He wrote his first short story titled “Untouchable”, at the age of sixteen.

His super indulging columns in TOI get you reeling with a happy feeling. Ruskin’s simple writing, easy-to-understand analogy of words and a normal approach towards the stories, along with his books are something to cherish for generations.

Confessions of a Book Lover is a journey into the life of Ruskin Bond. The book describes all the experiences that turned him into a writer. It gives you a kaleidoscopic view into the small boy’s life in a boarding school, where he used to draw inspiration from the authors & poets of that time. Bond spent much of his time shuffling through the bookshelves in Shimla’s Ripon Hospital, Hampstead General Hospital in London and The Selected Bookshop of Mr Rao and Ms Murthy in Bangalore, all of which fueled his imagination and prepped him to become one of India’s most celebrated writers.

Here’s an excerpt from Confessions of a Book Lover:
 Sanctuary in the School Library
 In my boarding school it was almost impossible for a boy to have any kind of privacy.
 Those in charge believed that if an adolescent was left alone for five minutes he would indulge in the most heinous and diabolical of activities, such as breaking windows, scribbling love notes to the baker’s daughter (the only girl on the premises), decorating the gymnasium walls with obscene graffiti, or introducing stinging nettles into the beds of unpopular prefects.
 ‘Don’t leave them alone for a minute.’ That was the headmaster’s recipe for maintaining discipline, and most of the time it worked. Even the lavatories were without doors, so as to discourage too much time spent in the loo. We had to get used to other boys standing around, chatting to us while we attempted to defecate. The toilets flushed automatically, every five minutes. Sometimes they overflowed, and if our timing was awry, we had to make a dash for safety with our pants still down.
 The lavatories, or ‘bogs’ as we called them, opened on to the hillside, and on one occasion I plonked myself down on a toilet seat only to find a large green snake coiled around the base of the toilet. It was probably a harmless grass snake, but I did not linger to find out.
 Somehow, toilet paper was always in short supply, as was water, so most of us resorted to using pages from our exercise books, which only aggravated the jamming of the flush systems. Even the snakes took off when the toilets overflowed.
 During my last two years at school an understanding senior master, Mr Knight, put me in charge of the school library, a capacious room a little distance from the classrooms and dormitories. It was called the Anderson Library, and I was the sole possessor of the keys to this little bit of heaven. Whenever I could escape from cricket nets (boring) or gymnastics (terrifying) or athletics practice (why run when you can walk?) I would sneak off to the library to explore the bookshelves. Making myself comfortable in the only armchair (the alternative was a hard bench), I would allow myself to be transported to another world through the pages of Somerset Maugham, Hugh Walpole, J.B. Priestley, P.G. Wodehouse, J.M. Barrie, Compton Mackenzie, Dornford Yates, John Buchan, John Masefield, and other successful novelists, poets and playwrights of the 1930s and 40s.
 We still read some of them today. Others have been unfairly forgotten. A novel that I really enjoyed was J.B. Priestley’s The Good Companions, which followed the fortunes of a group of disparate characters who came together to form a small touring theatrical company. The story is full of good humour and good fellowship, qualities that are to be found in most of Priestley’s work. There is a Dickensian roundness to his characters, as you will see from this extract in which the group comes together to choose a name for the company.
 Priestley wrote many successful plays, and his love for the theatre comes through in this early novel as well as in one of his last works, Lost Empires. He was guide, philosopher and friend to many aspiring young writers. I have treasured the story of his own literary journey, Margin Released, for many years.

Bond wrote his first novel in London “The Room on the Roof”, which is a semi-autobiographical story of the orphaned Anglo-Indian boy named Rusty. This book won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, (1957) awarded to a British Commonwealth writer under 30.

Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh and grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, New Delhi and Shimla. He has also spent some of his childhood years in the Channel Islands and London. He returned back to India in 1955. Currently, he is based in Landour, Mussoorie with his adopted family.

You can buy Confessions of a Book Lover here.

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