Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 19, 2024 IST

Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91

Mrinal Chatterjee

Born on this day, 19 May in 1934 Ruskin Bond is probably the most affable and polar nonagenarian author in India. He started writing at the age of 16. Bond has authored more than 500 short stories, essays, and novels which includes 69 books for children. He remains one of the most translated and read authors in contemporary times. I have the good fortune of translating an anthology of his short stories titled Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra from original English to Odia for Sahitya Academy.

Born to Edith Clarke and Aubrey Bond, Ruskin was the firstborn child in his family. He was named Owen Ruskin Bond; his father chose the name Ruskin for him. His father was British and mother Indian. He was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. His parents separated when he was eight.

Bond grew up mostly in Shimla and later in Dehradun, going to a boarding school there. He was mainly brought up by his grandparents, as his father died early.

After finishing school, he moved to London, worked as a clerk, and kept writing.

In 1955, Bond came back to India and started working as a freelance journalist. He wrote his first book, a novel “The Room on the Roof,” around this time, which is a bit like his own teenage years in Dehradun. It was published in 1956, and it received the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1957. He decided to become a writer, as his father wished and took up full time writing since 1963. Some of his popular works are ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘Vagrants in the Valley’, Susanna’s Husbands (which was made into a Vishal Bharadwaj  directed Hindi film Saat Khun Maaf starring Priyanka Chopra)  and ‘A Flight of Pigeons’.

He chose to live in Mussorie, a town in the Himalayan foothills in Uttarakhand where he lives with his adoptive family in Landour, Mussoorie's Ivy Cottage, which has been his home since 1980.

He remained a bachelor. In an interview he said in his trademark tongue-in-cheek style that he was never a ladies' man and there was one occasion when he thought his neighbour was taking interest in him, only to realise soon all she wanted was a little help with her English grammar and composition.

Bond received the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India in 1993, Padma Shri in 1999, Padma Bhushan in 2019 and Sahitya Academy Fellowship, the highest honour of the Academi in 2024 among other prestigious awards.

Apada me Sampada

Besides being Diabetes capital, TB capital, India is also the Cancer capital of the world. Apollo Hospitals’ ‘Health of the Nation 2024’ report revealed a concerning trend: Cancer cases in India are increasing sharply. Projections indicate an increase from 1.39 million cases in 2020 to 1.57 million by 2025, a 13 per cent surge in just five years. A recent study reveals a steady increase in cancer cases in Western Odisha in general and Bargarh district in particular. Bathinda, which lies in the heart of Punjab's Malwa region – is called the cancer capital of the state with the highest average 136 patients per one lakh population. Heart diseases and Incidences of heart attacks among younger people are increasing in India.  

Most of the diseases India is burdened with are lifestyle related. There lies a cruel paradox: our scriptures, sages and gurus talk of yoga and tyaga (renunciation), we blatantly indulge in bhoga (consumption). As a study by the Disease Burden Initiative in India reveals, a group of risk factors including unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, high cholesterol, and overweight have increased in every state of India; these risks together now contribute a quarter of the total disease burden in the country.

As the cases of diseases, especially cancer, rise, hospitals are increasing bed capacity. For corporate private hospitals it is an opportunity for growth. Truly apada me sampada.

Lungi

Recently Odisha witnessed a spat over lungi and dhoti. The spat obviously was politically motivated and attempted to divide the two in terms of antiquity, culture and religion- not surprising at a time when practically everything around us gets politically polarized.

I have been wearing lungi for over four and half decades now. I feel more comfortable in lungi than in any other attire. In summer, as the temperature shoots beyond 40 degree Celsius, and the humidity makes life miserable- a lungi allows air at places which need it the most.

Recently I read a story about the origin of lungi, which is shorter than dhoti and almost half of a saree. The story goes back to the days of Mahabharata and I don’t guarantee the authenticity of facts depicted in the story.

Arjuna was wandering in a forest. He found three bright colored sarees folded neatly and placed on a rock at the river bank. It was dusk. He didn't notice anyone and thought they were abandoned clothes, so he took them home.

It was evening time and his mother with her eyes closed was sitting in front of the deity offering her prayers. Arjuna interrupted, asking her to see what he brought, and the mother, with her eyes still closed, asked him to divide it equally among the five brothers. The dutiful and obedient Arjuna promptly cut each saree into two parts so that all five brothers would get at least one to wear.  Each of the Pandavas wore the half piece of saree around their waist tying them into a knot, and this was how the lungi was invented!

Disclaimer:

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.

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Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
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Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91
Window Seat: Ruskin Bond turns 91

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