Literary festivals are just a fashion, says Ruskin Bond

The Asian Age.  | Bhavana Akella

Life, More Features

Amidst buzzing reports that this time around, another filmmaker would be capturing one of Bond’s stories through a short film.

Ruskin Bond

Stories penned by this author have inspired many filmmakers, from Shyam Benegal to Vishal Bharadwaj, to recreate them on celluloid. With hundreds of titles to his credit, gaining the stature of being one of the most celebrated authors the country has seen, Ruskin Bond has been enriching the childhood of millions of children, giving a flight to their imagination, while at the same time engaging adults in some of the most engrossing tales. Amidst buzzing reports that this time around, another filmmaker would be capturing one of Bond’s stories through a short film, featuring veteran actor Tom Alter, who will be reportedly playing Bond, the eminent writer in an interview with us, speaks about how he is excited to know about the project, on his soon-to-be-released autobiography, which bibliophiles are eagerly awaiting, and his view of the current crop of Indian authors.

As we ring him up at his home in Mussoorie, the man of words ensures we get an image in our head of the dreamy location he sees outside his window, and  describes it to aid some teleportation. “As I speak to you, I’m sitting by the fireplace warming myself up,” he says, getting straight to our question on reports about the short film. “I don’t recall any such inquiry to make my stories into films. Occasionally I get the odd inquiries, but I don’t recall this one. I guess Tom Alter will have to play me as an old man, Tom is in his 70s and I’m in my 80s now (chuckles)! I don’t know anything about this film yet, this is the first time I’m hearing of it. But I’m interested to know more, certainly!” Bond exclaims.

If there’s anything his readers are looking forward to this year, it’s his autobiography, which is scheduled to release in April. “It’s largely the story of a lifetime of making writing both my vocation and in a way, a progression, because I managed to make a living out of it, right from the age of 20. A lot of it is about my personal life and relationships and how they have affected my writing, which could be of help to other young authors. It covers the changes I’ve seen around me in my life – from the pre-independence days, through many prime ministers and governments,” the writer shares.

Bond, who has been bringing quaint little hill towns to life through his stories, also has a new title Small Towns, Big Stories, published by Aleph Book Company, where he weaves together many tales from the remotest of places. “Most of these stories are set in small towns like Dehradun, Mussoorie, or Jamnagar. Because lives in small towns differ considerably from the lives in big cities, contrast is the key,” he says.

With mushrooming literary festivals in the country, this renowned author gets invitations to most of them, but says he doesn’t like to attend a lot of them. “I can’t keep rushing around the country when I get invites. I wouldn’t do any writing if I kept visiting all these lit fests. I believe that there were over 90 last year, and I think the record will be broken this year. And one cannot call these exactly lit fests, but platforms for people to propound their ideas, often political discussions, things that have very little to do with literature. Nevertheless, it does help some writers get exposure, those who need it and who want it. There are many writers who go to these places often, and one wonders when they get time to sit down to do some writing. I don’t see lit fests making any difference to the readership in the country, people still buy their books at book stores or book fairs. Literary fests are just a fashion, and could die out in a couple of years,” he believes.

Bond confesses that he goes back to reading classic crime fiction writers like Agatha Christie, whenever it rains or snows. He says writers today are divided into two. “There are authors like Amitav Ghosh on the one hand, and on the other there are bestselling writers like Chetan Bhagat and Amish, who are writing for a particular audience. I suppose in the long run, it’s the good work that outlasts the shoddy work, but there’s enough room for all kinds of writing,” Bond comments.

The technology-averse writer has kept even a typewriter away from him, and sticks to traditional ways of penning down each of the stories, in ink. “Maybe that’s why I’m often writing about the years gone by,” he laughs, signing off.