Tagore’s works convinced me to go to India: Ruskin Bond

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Celebrated author Ruskin Bond last week said  proximity to nature helped shape his writing, and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s works “convinced” him to make a writing career in India.

“I do owe a lot to Kolkata and to 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 collected plays and poems of Rabindranath Tagore,” Bond said at the inaugural session of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet at the Victoria Memorial Hall grounds.

“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,” the 80-year-old Padma Bhushan recipient said.

Looking at the crowd that comprised primarily children who had gathered at the sprawling venue to hear him speak, Bond said: “Literature is far from dead.”

The author of popular stories like “Room on The Roof”, “Night Train At Deoli”, the Rusty series and others said he realised the importance of nature over the years not just as a writer but as a human being.

“Nature is responsible for making me the kind of writer I am. Nature has over the years become of greater importance to me as time goes by. As a boy I rather took nature for granted as most of us do,” he said.

Bond also emphasised on conserving nature.

“The longer I have lived and the closer I have become to the world of nature, the more I have realised how important it is to me not just as a writer but to all of us as human beings and to people who live in this world and how lucky we are to have these trees around us… the beautiful environment… and it is something that we have to look after for ourselves and for our children,” Bond added.

He further said children find their own ways to discover books and that he was not “too worried” about curbs on freedom of expression.

“I think children discover their books and they do so at different ages. You can’t really keep things from children.

“So sometimes being told that certain books or literature is not good has the opposite effect and is an incentive to go and discover it,” Bond said at the inaugural session of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet at the Victoria Memorial Hall grounds here.

Children and young adults queued up to catch a glimpse of the cherubic Mussoorie-based author who answered all their questions that centred on some of his cult books like “Room on The Roof”, “Night Train At Deoli” and the Rusty series among others.

Quizzed on free speech vis-a-vis children’s right to express themselves, the 80-year-old Padma Bhusan recipient said reading makes one capable of judging good literature from “shoddy” ones and therefore, he was not too worried.

“Good writing transcends and you get bad writing… I think the more we read, more capable we are of judging what’s good literature and what’s shoddy. I am not too worried, therefore, about curbs on freedom of expression because we find our freedom one way or the other,” he said.

The author said the habit of reading was not absent but readers always have been a minority, even during his own school days.

“Today, reading is still a minority pastime but that minority in terms of numbers has grown and grown because of education and the larger number of people who can read,” he added.

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