Recounting the time when I met the Living Legend
It was my first wedding anniversary, in 2012, and an impromptu meeting with my favorite author and famous story teller of India, since last 50 years and more, was quite enthralling. My husband arranged for me to meet the author at a famous book shop in Mussoorie, Cambridge Book Depot, as it is know by the name. Some of you might be wondering if it was important to share the name of the book shop in question here? Then here it is. It is the only book shop where Bond himself comes to visit his fans once in every week.
Those of you who have grown up reading Bond’s stories must have an idea of how prolific the writer is. He is everyone’s favorite Rusky, the fictional character he named after himself. Bond has been writing since a very young age. He was only 17 when he published his first novel, A Room on the Roof, which earned him John Llewellyn Rhys memorial Prize in 1957. Thereafter he continued writing many, many short stories and novellas, a few of which were made into movies later on.
The thrill of meeting my favorite author was too exciting for me since I was ready well before the scheduled time given to us by the bookshop owner. So, I, just like any other crazy fan, reached the shop an hour before and gave my credentials to the shopkeeper without any delay.
And lo! Here it was the real take! The shop owner, smiled at my breathless introduction and said the magical words: “He would see you at his home today, if you don’t mind going a little uphill”. I could not express my astonishment at the chance of meeting my favorite author and that too at his residence!!! It was something out of a fairy tale for me since I am an ordinary woman with no exceptional and interesting incidents happening around me.
As soon as I heard him say that I picked up three of the latest Ruskin Bond releases and began my way toward meeting my dream author, who was living just a mile away from where I stood then.
The way up the hill seemed quiet long as the time given by the bookshop owner to meet him was scheduled at 4 PM, and so I was still an hour away of seeing my favorite one in person, all flesh and blood! So I spent my way taking into cognizance the surroundings, the mountains, the hill top view, the bazaar on my way.
But one particular thing that caught my fancy was a lonely big villa, far off on the top of little hill top which was flattened for the purpose of building it. There was clearing in front of the house which reached up to the point from where one could see down the hill into the valley; and it was surrounded on three sides by tall pine trees. It was evening and the house stood in shadow of the larger mountain behind it.
I wondered to myself, “does it see the sunlight even once throughout the whole day?” In fact all through this while, all I could imagine was, “whether these could be the mountains, the people, the bazaars of which he took a fancy and wrote so much about them!” I gave no further attention to that gloomy house thereafter and focused my attention to my meeting with Bond.
It is a little place called ‘Laal Tibba’ where Ruskin Bond has been living since long. A small house, located on the uneven platform of the ‘pahadi’ (hill) occupied by several other residences on each side of the road going uphill. So when the time came we made a slight knock at the door, so as not to disturb the occupants and waited for someone to open the doors. I was quiet thrilled already and as I stood there, waiting, I could not believe my eyes when I saw none other than the Bond himself open the doors to us and welcomed us with a warm and friendly smile, into his little nook.
It’s enthralling to have been welcomed by your favorite one and that too at his residence. I was stupefied and moved mechanically toward the sofa where he offered us to sit. I could not still believe my eyes to see him sitting before me. I have seen his pictures in the newspapers and magazines and book covers several times, but he seemed so cute with his cherubic smile in real. After a formal introduction, I told him about the time I spent around 100 meters in his vicinity, waiting for the scheduled time to approach upon which he remarked, “Oh! Then you should have come earlier. Why didn’t you?”
Well, his room was a little one with book-racks stacked up all around. An old cushiony sofa on which he himself sat and a similar one offered to us, were kept opposite to each other. Near the window was laying his writing table, or so I believed, where he produced so many mysterious, funny, thoughtful, entertaining and unforgettable stories.
I mentioned to him that I took up his works as a topic for my M.A. English dissertation a couple of years back and he, quite nonchalantly said, “So must have not have got any good grades I am sure!” and laughed out loud.
Since I was keen on asking him something or the other, just to keep up with the small talk, you know. And here I was asking him, like an inquiring journalist,
“It is often said that, you write quite like Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie. . . ”
and before I could finish with my stupid and out of place question, he laughed and said,
“O I am nothing in line with such great writers. I feel so honored to hear that”.
We remained there at his residence for quite some time and before leaving, like a crazy fan, I requested him for a photograph with me to which he happily consented. I cherish that photograph, always. He autographed his books for me that I bought from the book shop down hill. They are not mere books but memories. Though I keep reading a lot of other books authored by him but those are the real gems.
I may sound like one silly, crazy fan of the author I met, but, he is no less than a living legend for me.
I wish to see him soon, again.