One day, while Instagramming, I found out that one of my all time favorite writers, Ruskin Bond, was to be honored with the lifetime achievement award at the Times Literature Festival. Excited, I glossed over the schedule and made up my mind to visit the venue, for even a glimpse of him would be an once in a century moment for me.
I had always known that he lived in Mussoorie and it so happened that my plans to visit this beautiful place went haywire. Every damn time. Meeting him at his bookstore, and getting my books signed was a dream I had cherished since a long, long time. But as they say, all in good time. I had a good feeling that I shall grab that much awaited chance to see him. Being the talebearer that I am, it becomes compulsory to narrate the story of how I got introduced to my other favorite author, Vijaydan Detha. One day, in 2013, I read a headline in a newspaper daily about his passing away. He, the “Shakespeare of Rajasthan”, was in the running for a Nobel in Literature, but missed it. I had watched the star studded movie Paheli, which was based on his short story- The Dilemma. Being a lover of anything and everything that belongs to the desert state, I was hooked to the news. But before I could reach upto him post the reading up of his work, it was too late. Otherwise, I would’ve definitely met him.
So, when the news of Bond coming over to the capital city hit me, I had made up my mind. And the next day, I reached the venue, which was the India Habitat Centre, one hour prior to the scheduled time. I waited and waited for over an hour post that, but there was no sign of Mr. Bond. Hungry and on the verge of exhaustion, I marched to the food court. After having sinned for gluttony, I went back only to find a long queue. And on further inquiry, my suspicions were confirmed. He was indeed there! Even the snake like line did not deter me from my goal. Armed with two books, one being my supplementary reader from the fourth standard, the first book of his I had laid my hands on and the other being a collection of his work I had bought in the book fair two years back.
I took the former with me, and gave the latter to my friend, who inspite of not being a book lover, was forced to stand with me in the line, for carrying two books to be autographed would have looked outrageous. I found many people, with no knowledge of his genius, buying the first book of his off the shelf (For Penguin India had put up a stall nearby), and standing in the queue for book signing, just for the sake of it. That irritated me. But in hindsight, it gives me peace to think that even if they read and discover the great writer now, it would be a blessing for them.
As I finally met him, the wrinkled smile greeted me with a warm hello. I went weak in the knees, handing over my copy to him, I muttered nervously, “This is my first book of yours, Sir. Thank you for gifting me an amazing childhood,” I added. His smile broadened and he signed and gave the book back to me with a polite thank you. And in that moment, I became the child who had, after throwing tonnes of tantrums, got his favorite toy/candy. And also, I was enlightened as to what makes writers ‘great’. It’s their humility and delight in indulging their readers, to be frank, which puts that prefix before their name. For Mr. Bond respected his readers just as they loved him dearly. With the twinkle in his eyes, he acknowledged everyone around. And I muttered to myself, while clinching my treasure and going back home- Ek Tha Rusty. 🙂