A Short Biographical sketch of my favourite writer.
(As published in "Ruskin Bond." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Aug. 2011.)
Born in India to British parents, author Ruskin Bond paints sensitive, colorful portraits of life in his native country to capture the imagination of his young readers. One of India's most noted children's authors, he depicts the many facets of India's natural and social landscape through his simple stories--from a temple near a quiet, rural village or a bazaar in a small provincial town to a narrow city street brimming with buses, bicycles, and the clamor of people. As Bond notes in his Rain in the Mountains: Notes from the Himalayas, "I have been writing in order to sustain the sort of life I like to lead--unhurried, even-paced, sensual, in step with the natural world, most at home with humble people."
A natural storyteller, Bond found that his talent enabled him to make a living away from the more highly industrialized, congested areas of India. Following the philosophy he outlined in "What's Your Dream?," an autobiographical essay from 1982's A Garland of Memories, Bond has found "a room of his own" at Ivy Cottage, a house in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and has pursued his single dream by dedicating his life to being a storyteller.
Bond had his first success as a writer very early in his career. In fact, he was not even twenty when he published The Room on the Roof, a novel that dealt with growing up in a changing India. When Rusty, the tale's orphaned protagonist, discovers that he is of mixed Indian-English heritage, he decides to strike out on his own and work as a tutor in the town of Dehra Dun. His naive romantic relationship with the mother of his young charge leads to discovery by her alcoholic husband. Rusty is forced to leave the life he has made for himself and move to another city to find a new place in society. Although Helen W. Coonley senses the author's youth--Bond was seventeen when he wrote the novel--and notes in Kliatt that The Room on the Roof incorporates a somewhat immature outlook, she concludes that "though awkward in parts, the book is still fresh and likable." The Room on the Roof was the winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957, an annual award given to a quality work of fiction written by a resident of the British Commonwealth (which then included India) under the age of thirty.
The Room on the Roof made its author something of a celebrity in India, not only because of his young age but because he was able to capture the spirit of the land and its people so sensitively through his fiction. Throughout his twenties Bond continued to write adult novels about his childhood, not turning to writing for children until he had reached his thirties. Since then, he has written numerous stories and poems that capture his nostalgia for the days of his boyhood: the natural beauty and tranquility of his grandparent's home and the close, secure, loving relationships that he experienced with friends and family.
"Bond illustrates his vision of childhood as a carefree age of mischief and joy where the only worries are associated with cricket matches, beetle races, and parental anger at bad report cards," explains Meena Khorana in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. "In this comfortable and familiar world, there is a sense of security in friendship and the love and guidance of adults." In books such as The Cherry Tree, The Adventures of Rusty, and Getting Granny's Glasses, relationships among friends and family are warmly illustrated through incidents in the lives of each of Bond's youthful characters. The Cherry Tree, for example, is Bond's heartwarming story of six-year-old Rakhi's attempt to grow a cherry tree from a seed. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praises the book as "abound[ing] with quiet wisdom and love of life."
Drama and suspense are often found in Bond's fiction for children. In Flames in the Forest, young Romi finds himself caught in a forest fire. He and another boy must help each other race to the river--along with frightened birds and animals and even an elephant herd--to escape the smoke and flames. The determined Romi and his partner manage to survive the tragedy in a story that Ellen D. Warwick describes in School Library Journal as full of "action, suspense, local color, even a bit of humor."
Angry River is another of Bond's dramatic adventures. The novel features a young girl who has been left alone on her island home while her grandfather takes his dying wife to the hospital. As the river surrounding her island rises, Sita climbs a tree to safety; after the tree is washed downriver by the raging water, she is rescued by the providential appearance of a boy in a boat. "The power and size of the river, the fear and the danger are all present," states a Times Literary Supplement reviewer, "as is the sense of smallness in a vast world. . . . This really is India you feel."
"At the heart of [Bond's] writings is the value placed on simplicity and a selfless attitude toward life," explains Khorana. "Although the stories deal with the pleasures of humble people, their lives are enriched by meaningful experiences and a profound insight into life." Bond himself gains much of his inspiration from his surroundings and develops many of his ideas for children's books on the long walks he takes on the mountains near his home. "My interests (mountains, animals, trees, wild flowers) are embodied in these and other writings," Bond once explained. "I live in the foothills of the Himalayas and my window opens out on the forest and the distant snow-peaks--the highest mountains in the world. . . . I sit here and, inspired by the life of the hill people and the presence of birds and trees, write my stories and poems." Of his preoccupation with the landscape that features so prominently in his work, Bond once explained, "Once you have lived in the mountains, you belong to them and must come back again and again. There is no escape."