“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”
I remember this one sunny, slightly breezy day in October when I was in the school library. I was very little, I cannot recall the exact age, but this is one of those days from childhood that you remember over others. One of those days, about which you tell your elders and they tell you that you must have imagined it because you were too young back then, to remember it now.
But I remember this day, the one I am talking about, when I was rummaging through the stack of endless books in my school library. I was short and had to stand on my toes to reach the books on the upper racks. These books intrigued me more because I innocently believed that things that were kept out of your reach were not meant for you. I realise today, however, how much one of the books I touched that day would shape my school of thoughts, my love for literature, and my passion for writing.
I still remember, vividly, that it was the cover of a book called The Adventures of Rusty that caught my fancy. As I turned the pages, reading the words, I realised how it injected into my highly impressionable mind a sense of adventure, sparking my imaginations.
That was the beginning of my journey with the works of Ruskin Bond.
Bond recently made headlines after being selected for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Fellowship. The recognition of Fellowship from the National Academy of Letters — yet another feather on his cap — overwhelmed me, but did not surprise me. Over the years, Ruskin Bond has captured the attention of his readers across a spectrum of all ages and stages of life. I think what had instantly hooked me to his pages all those years ago was the use of simple vocabulary and sentences that lead to painting-like imaginations.
My relationship with Bond’s works has continued ever since and has become an almost 20-year strong literary journey that has shaped my imaginations and greatly influenced my vision of an ideal life and lifestyle choices. I have lived through the valleys, mountains, walked on the winding, damp roads, smelled the mist in the air – vicariously – through his words.
Choosing mountains over swanky cars
It is fascinating how literature can change your outlook towards life, and make you seek what you never thought you would. As I grew up reading Bond, my idea of an ideal life saw a gradual yet continuous change. From daydreaming of earning a lot of money and driving swanky cars, I now wish for a quiet life, the kind of life that Bond seemingly lives, and writes about. When I find myself rushing to work in the morning, gulping spoonfuls of breakfast while driving to work, it is not the rare sight of a Porsche Panamera or BMWX6 cruising along the road that catches my fancy anymore, but visions of an unhurried future in the hills, by which time I would have possibly created an alternate source of passive income.
In the life that Bond has prompted me to create in my mind, there would be no more petty office politics and unnecessary hounding by bosses, no more impolite colleagues and anxious meetings, but only the chirping of the birds, the chilly mountain breeze, and the fresh, local produce to feed my belly with. Such has been the impact of Bond’s words on my benchmark of a good life.
I think I am done living my life the 007 way. I seek no more thrill and adventure that would keep me on my toes. I would prefer standing wherever I wish to, for as long as I want to, facing in a direction that has the most pleasing view to my eyes. All I pray to the universe for is a life amidst nature, in a hillhouse of my own, built of oak and deodar woods, with a window that opens to a view of snow-clad mountains. In the mornings, I wish to feel the chilly mountain breeze infused with a mild smell of pines kiss my face. I wish to wake up to a tree branch peeping into my room.
What can be better for a Bond-reader than the sights of snowy peaks, grassy knolls, shrubs of anemone, yellow colt’s-foot dandelion, blue gentian, purple columbine, rhododendron, sounds of the tonk-tonk of the nightjar, random sights of wild animals like civet cat, musk-deer, goral or even a snow leopard on the prowl at a safe distance, steep, damp roads and of course, the sound of a wind chime hanging outside the warm, cosy hill house.
Love him or not, you cannot hate Bond
I have felt for a long time now that people may either love Bond, or just simply be indifferent towards him, but I do not think there is anyone who hates him, and one of the many reasons is that he never tried to dabble unnecessarily into other fields of activity like politics or religion. If my recollection serves me right, he never participated in any TV debates or tried to state his opinions where it was not required, or where he probably did not have the expertise in the subject being discussed.
I think he never needed to, anyway. Away from all the din and noise and flashing lights, Bond has simply stuck to what he has been exceptionally good at — sitting by his window, reminiscing, and letting his pen roll out engaging stories. We touch the pages, he touches our heart, stirs our vision, setting for us a benchmark of an ideal life altogether different from what most of us have previously had in our minds.