NEW DELHI: The name is Bond, Ruskin Bond. The 81-year-old much loved author dismissed an early advice by his mother to join the Army and instead went on to bring out with military discipline a treasure trove of writings, keeping entertained readers both the old and the young.
"Yes, I enjoy being an author and writing stories, probably because that is what I have been doing best besides playing football. Except that at 81, I can still write but football...," Bond said while delivering this year's Penguin Annual Lecture here last evening.
Although he is largely known as a children's writer, the Mussourie-based author has had a vibrant literary career spanning 65 years in which he has penned nearly 500 short stories, essays and novellas.
The great storyteller that he is, Bond kept aside the unopened envelope containing the text of his deliberation on topic "The Joy of Writing," and relied on his memory to share his journey as a writer.
With his child like smile the author regaled the audience with humorous anecdotes from his life.
While readers are familiar with his fondness for nature in nearly all his writings did they stop to think why?
Bond who lives in a solitary cottage amidst the mountains in Landour said, "Window is most important and that is why I have big windows through which I can look outside. So, nature became a great part of my writing."
In what may seem hilarious today the author recounted an incident early in his career where he had to purchase his own book.
Not long after his first book "The Room on the Roof" was published in 1956, he visited a bookshop to check on how it was doing in the market. To his disappointment he found the book tucked deep beneath a pile of bestsellers. Heartbroken, he discreetly pulled it out and placed it on top of the pile.
Unaware that he was addressing the book's author, the shopkeeper pushed it back towards the bottom saying, "Yeh nahi chalta hai (this does not sell)", which prompted a furious Bond to purchase his own book!
The author, who has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan besides the Sahitya Akademi, said he had been a prolific reader all his life and stressed on the importance of reading to be able to write well.
"It is very important that you be a good reader, because you learn so much from books and also because you emulate your favourite writers," he said.
Bond said books for him turned into "companions" and reading was like a "therapy".
As a child, he said he liked to read fiction authored by Charles Dickens and R L Stevenson and plays by George Bernard Shaw besides a slew of comics. Over time his tastes changed with more of non-fiction including biographies and histories were on his current reading list.
On one occasion when he ran out of reading material at his cottage, Bond said, he had picked up an Oxford Dictionary and was surprised how he ended up reading "page after page, learning new words".
Several of Bond's writings including "A Flight of Pigeons," "The Blue Umbrella" and "Susanna's Seven Husbands" have been adapted into films, besides the Rusty stories which have been made into a Doordarshan TV series titled "Ek Tha Rusty".
Little is known about how Bond also turned actor for director Vishal Bhardwaj who adapted "Susanna's Seven Husbands" to make the Priyanka Chopra starring film "Saat Khoon Maaf."
The author plays a Bishop where he had to give a "fatherly peck" on Chopra's cheek and after several re-takes for the shot, Bhardwaj had said, "Bond, I think you are doing it deliberately."
He confessed being "the most lazy writer" who is "always taking naps," but emphasised the importance of working daily.
"I feel guilty if I go for a day or two without writing," he said.
Talking about what set him off on a habit of writing, he shared how as a child of 10 left alone at home while his father was at work, he would fill up his exercise books with little observations from his surroundings.
These jottings over time took shape of a diary or a journal that he continues to write even today.
Sometimes he would also record his dreams in his journal, which on certain occasions have turned into books.
One of his most popular stories, "The Night Train at Deoli" was in fact a reproduction of a dream.
"What you are writing today may not be useful to you now, but in the future you can look back and create stories from them," he said.
Among the most recent of Bond's works is a brand new Rusty adventure titled, "Rusty and the Magic Mountain" (Penguin India).
On delivering the Penguin Annual Lecture of 2015, Bond said, "I've had long innings: 65 years of joyful writing. I write about things that are dear to me: people, places, mountains, forests - and I open my words to the world. There is a lot to talk about on a winter's evening."
The seven previous lectures have been delivered by journalist and writer Thomas Friedman, diplomat Chris Patten, economist Amartya Sen, historian Ramachandra Guha, the Dalai Lama, former President Abdul Kalam, actor Amitabh Bachchan and bestselling author Dan Brown.