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"There's only one way to become a writer, that's to be a reader. If you look at the lives of all successful writers, you'd find that when they were boys or girls, they were readers and bookworms. It's from a love of reading that you come to a love of writing.”, says Ruskin Bond. To be a writer, one should not be hesitant to read others’ books.And if we want to know about Ruskin Bond's reading habit, I am sure that it'll block some hundreds of thousands of pages!

Ruskin Bond can be undeniably called the Deityof Words. For more than 70 years he has been carving out stories which have cherished readers, young and old, for generations now.Ruskin Bond stories are enjoyed even today. In one ofRuskin Bond’s books, Mr Bond writes, “I have enjoyed a fairly long life, and in my time I must have read close to ten thousand books”. Now that he has entered eighty, his eyesight has weakened a little, but he still reads books when the light is good and when a good comfortable chair is to hand.

Ruskin Bond’s Favourite Chair

Bond was introduced to the vast world of books at a forest rest house in the Rajaji National Park in the foothills of theHimal. He was eight and it was the era when the jungles used to thunder with the sound of the guns. Rajaji was not a national park in the ‘40s, and was the hub of keen shikaris. On the first day, little Bond had to accompany his guardians, but on the second day ‘he declined the invitation’ and instead took refuge in the rest house library. He writes, “One would think that an eight year old boy would be thrilled at the prospect of accompanying a shikar party on a safari but I had to be forced into going.”. At the rest house, Bond discovered PG Wodehouse’s Love among the Chickens, the famous Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie and Jack London’s White Fang. This put the oil on fire of a sort.

Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse

Seeing the enthusiasm in Bond to read books, he was given the charge of the school library at Bishop Cotton School. “the great escape”- as he describes the library. The library was indeed an escape for Bond from the sports and PT periods! Here Ruskin Bond had got an opportunity to acquire knowledge about literature and books. He discovered Dickens, Maugham, Hugh Walpole and what not! Among the Indian authors he found were Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, and R.K Narayan. While speaking about Mulk Raj Anand, there is an interesting story which must be told. One day while Bond was at his desk at the Ivy Cottage, came a ‘dapper little gentleman’ at his door. Ruskin Bond had not recognised the person until the man at the door introduced himself as Mulk Raj Anand! He remembers having a good hour’s chat with him about books and also Anand putting a ten rupee note into his great-grandson, Siddharth’s pocket. “Siddharth….. was then only three or four and doesn’t remember the occasion; but it was a nice gesture on the part of that Grand Old man of Letters”, he writes. With reading, came writing. He was in class eight when he turned some school exercise copy into a manuscript. However, it never got published.

Ruskin Bond’s desk

Out of the hundreds of thousands of books he has read all these years, he without any thought has always acknowledged Charles Dickens as his favourite writer. He was so fond of him, that he had even left his house for a day like him to become a writer. However, he regrets that he couldn’t keep out for long for his stomach was calling for lunch. He says, “For me, Charles Dickens was, and always will be, the greatest novelist in the English Language”. When he was shipped off to England, Bond had carried a copy of The Pickwick Papers that he had picked from the house of Dehra Granny all the way. Surprisingly, he still has the copy preserved in a suitcase more than sixty-five years old. It is kept dearly under his bed and it still works as a museum for handwritten manuscripts and notebooks.

When in England, Bond took the opportunity to go in search of places he had read in the books of Dickens He walked down to the Baker Street to ‘find Sherlock Holmes’, then over the East End devouring the places mentioned by Dickens in Our Mutual Friend and Oliver Twist and then he went to Kensington Gardens to meet Peter Pan. However, Bond had developed a sort of homesickness for India, for friends and he had none there. He was sufficed by books and perhaps, books were his best companions in Jersey. While he was returning to India on the Batory,he had two books with him- the Walden and the Story of My Heart.

Young Bond in England

He discovered Indian writers there. One of them he has always loved is Rabindranath Tagore. He had read almost all of Tagore’s plays, poems and books in Jersey and this had intensified his longing for India. “I do owe a lot to Kolkata and Bengali literature because when I was a boy and when I was stranded in an island between England and France for three years, with great difficulty I caught hold of the collected plays and poems of Rabindranath Tagore. I read them one by one, ‘The Post Office’, ‘Red Oleanders’ etc. and they all brought me to India, and in a way convinced me that I had to come back and make my writing career here itself and that’s why I am here today” he had said at a literary fest.

Red Oleanders by Rabindranath Tagore

He still finds joy in Conrad, Stevenson, Evelyn Waugh, M.R James, Charles Dickens and Maugham. And as his pen guides swiftly on the page, his reading has only increased. Ruskin has a separate room for books and calls it a ‘luxury’. However, he has to keep some of his books on a tea table and a chair. He has his favourite sofa beside and a pair of reading glasses always handy.

Separate room for books. Photo Credit- @ruskinbondofficial

“Those who do not read are the unfortunate ones. There's nothing wrong with them; but they are missing out on one of life's compensations and rewards. A great book is a friend that never lets you down”

~ Ruskin Bond book

Now that we have come to know Ruskin Bond’s reading habit, let’s talk about the people who don’t love reading. But don’t worry! Ruskin Bond Collections is now there to make reading even more enjoyable with merchandise and exciting combos! Speaking of Ruskin Bond Collections, I should let you all know that there is an exciting offer going on with his latest book, It’s a Wonderful Life. Happy Reading!

Name- Rehan Sheikh

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