–Gautam K Bordoloi
Any new book by the eminent Indian author Ruskin Bond brings a lot of excitement to his dedicated band of readers for he has been informing and entertaining them with sincerity over the decades–be that a book of short stories for children, a collection of thoughtful essays on myriad hues of Nature with all its objects, his delightful novels set in idyllic hill-stations or a collection of moving poems. In his own words: ” I have followed instinct rather than intelligence, and this has resulted in a modicum of happiness.” No wonder Bond, now 87 years old, is aptly dubbed as “India’s most loved writer.”
The latest book of Ruskin Bond–‘ How to be a Writer’, meant primarily for children and published by Harper Collins India a couple of months ago, is a storehouse of very valuable information for any young persons who would like to take up writing quite seriously in future. In fact, it is equally helpful for the grownups in pursuit of writing. The book is “peppered with nuggets of practical advice” for every person who aspires to write with dedication and to be published and everything is narrated in Bond’s usual “understated, tongue-in-cheek, humorous style.” The book also provides an exclusive glimpse into the “writing credo” of Ruskin Bond who has had an incredibly successful writing career.
One of most appealing features of the book is that notwithstanding the fact it is quite slim in size, Bond could cram into it a good many suggestions for the budding aspirants to take up writing either as a profession or a hobby–in a crisp but effective manner on the basis of his long experience as a craftsman himself and also through his keen observation of the works of the immortal ones in the field. So deeply immersed in his profession, Bond declares with all the confidence at his command: “Writing, for me, is the simplest and greatest pleasure in the world.” For those who want to pursue it seriously, this is his piece of advice: “The important thing is to keep writing, observing, listening and paying attention to the beauty of words and their arrangement.” Although according to him a writer must not live the life of a recluse, yet he advocates: “Being alone is vital for any creative writer.” He feels a writer needs to be a lover of solitude, because naturally, one writes best when one is alone. Besides, any writer is likely to taste success and failure, some recognition, but also long period of neglect and critical dismissal. Referring to an endless source of subjects, Bond rightly points out: “there are so many lovely things to see and so many charming and interesting people to meet”, and therefore, a true writer’s pen will never run dry.
Writing is not easy hammock-riding for all. As Bond indicates– anyone can write a book, but not everyone will read it. To become a writer may be easy, but to be a good writer entails years of dedication and labour. As Bond points out a certain basic qualities are common for all aspiring to be successful writers and these are: a love of books, a love of languages, a love of life, an observant eye, a good memory, enthusiasm, optimism, persistence in the face of many odds– and then, a willingness to accept a certain amount of loneliness. Besides, one needs to have a clear idea about his or her principal purpose of writing– whether it is for own pleasure, or in order to give pleasure to others, or to earn fame and fortune. And nothing wrong with any one of these targets. Stressing on the need of reading with avidity, Bond points out succinctly: “Books are essential for the creative mind, and good readers become good writers.” He also advises the young writers to set their stories in the places they know about pretty well, underlining the importance of keeping “a notebook handy, especially when travelling.” A notebook is vital for any writer who intends writing full-time and at a professional level.
Are writers born or made? This is a question confronts everyone. The question is often put to Bond too. He points out that certain innate qualities like intelligence, sensitivity, imagination, an observant nature, and most importantly–creativity, are present in a good writer. But to be a part of a writer’s make-up, these unique qualities, have to be channelled into the use of proper language that doesn’t mystify the reader with very complex vocabulary and convoluted sentences. Moreover, to be a good writer–a successful writer–one must be original, cultivating own style and avoiding stereotypes. Bond in the book speaks about a variety of popular themes for writing and more may be added to the list according to the personal choice of any writer. Further, he lays great emphasis on choosing the title of any literary work very carefully. In fact, as he points out, the classics like the ‘War and Peace’ with its original title ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ or the ‘Gone with the Wind’ with its original title ‘Ba! Ba! Black Sheep’ were unlikely to have become as popular as they are even today. Notably, Bond gives some practical suggestions in the book for overcoming a number of stumbling blocks every writer often faces and for the young writers the effective ways to get their work published by maintaining patience, working hard and not giving up easily. In the total of seven chapters with beautiful illustrations, Bond touches upon all the major aspects of professional writing so that all aspiring writers can hone their skills to work on tenaciously and be successful in future. The list of recommendations of selected writers and their works, as appended to the book, will surely help the young writers in the making.
Well, the latest book is another fantastic gift by avuncular Ruskin Bond, the most prominent face in Landour, Mussoorie– his place of residence, who was duly awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014, in recognition of his spectacular oeuvre of literary creations spanning over 70 years.