Meet­ing the Bond with a twist was spe­cial

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - REGION - Aastha Bagga

My first en­counter with love oc­curred when my mother gifted me a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries of Ruskin Bond on my fifth birth­day. I fell in love with Ruskin, whom I imag­ined to be a lonely boy liv­ing up in the moun­tains, wait­ing for me on his east­ern win­dow. I re­mem­ber my sharp in­cli­na­tion to marry him, only be­cause he would tell me sto­ries each day of my life. How Ruskin and I would eat tikkis to­gether, go for long walks in the hills, cy­cle in sun­flower fields and play un­der mango, le­mon and jack­fruit trees; is all I day­dreamed off.

I was born in an era when the in­ter­net had not taken a toll on men and women and books were all one de­sired for com­pany. Be­ing from a small town, si­t­u­ated on the foothills of the Shiva­liks, there were rarely any other modes of en­ter­tain­ment be­sides sto­ry­books. Ev­ery week­end, I would be­seech my fa­ther to get me a Ruskin Bond book from his way back from Chandi­garh. I adored the way Bond por­trayed na­ture, sub­tle yet beau­ti­ful, poignant yet sharp. Be­sides the love for moun­tains, I shared with him the love for chaat.

At the ten­der age of 16, he won the il­lus­tri­ous John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. He was also awarded the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan for his con­tri­bu­tion to­wards lit­er­a­ture. Ruskin has been writ­ing for seven decades, and I have been read­ing him for three decades.

When I joined my hus­band for his Dehradun post­ing, I was ra­di­ant, more for the fact that I will come face to face with the long lost love of my life, Ruskin Bond. Af­ter a lot of pes­ter­ing, my Ma­jor Sahib suc­cumbed to my de­mands, and one fine evening was ded­i­cated to meet­ing Bond.

There I sat be­side my hus­band, re­hears­ing how would I ex­press my feel­ings for Bond. How should I ad­dress him? Will ‘sir’ be too old fash­ioned? My chain of thoughts halted or was it the car that halted. We were just 22 km out of Mus­soorie and the car had bro­ken down.

With the help of a nearby Maggi shop owner, my hus­band pushed the car to the side, clearing the road for other ve­hi­cles. He tried fix­ing the car. He seemed the vil­lain pre­vent­ing me from meet­ing my love. I sensed mal­ice. I was puff­ing with anger and dis­ap­point­ment. Af­ter about half an hour, my hus­band called his unit for ve­hi­cle sup­port and like a child is dragged away from his favourite toy, he towed me to­wards a restau­rant. He sat there or­der­ing my favourite menu, but my appetite was lost.

My hus­band, who I al­ways thought knew no difference be­tween Ruskin Bond and James Bond, pointed to the left. There it was, the most spec­tac­u­lar view of my life. As­cend­ing hills, dec­o­rated with the wild and the wet green de­o­dars, spread as far as my eyes could see. Sun rays beau­ti­fully neck­laced these hills, slowly dis­ap­pear­ing, mak­ing a solemn prom­ise to the sky to meet again, to­mor­row. The birds were nest­ing in the trees, a cool breeze was brush­ing the bushes and dark­ness was en­velop­ing the win­ter sky. The trees seemed to know me and so did the birds.

I felt great joy on see­ing all this, ex­actly like Bond de­scribed in his sto­ries. I may not have met him that day, but I met the essence for which Ruskin Bond stands: the beauty of na­ture. I sat there nes­tled on the ter­race restau­rant, pulling my jacket a lit­tle closer, gaz­ing to­wards the beauty of na­ture, spread across me.

And then, I heard Bond whis­per­ing in my ears, “Peo­ple with good eyes of­ten fail to see what is in front of them.”

This May 19 is the 84th birth­day of Ruskin Bond. Wish­ing him a very happy birth­day.


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