(Carrying this theme forward)
Witnessed at the Crossword bookstore in the Select Citywalk mall, just a few minutes before a book reading by Ruskin Bond: a chirpy young TV reporter, mike in hand, asks children facile questions about Ruskin and his books:
Reporter: So tell me, isn’t it exciting that you’re GETTING TO MEET RUSKIN BOND TODAY? (She widens her eyes dramatically and simulates excitement with a series of facial contortions, clearly intended as a cue for the kids to do the same)
Stoical child: oh it’s nice, but you know, my brother and I met him at a book fair just last year, so...
Reporter (puts mike down, bares teeth): Look, just say you LOVE HIM and are THRILLED TO BITS about being here! All right? All right?
(Precocious child quivers briefly, complies)
Yet another instance of journalism holding up a mirror to society. I shake my head in sadness – partly because that serious-faced boy could have been me 25 years ago.
But I should clarify that the overall response to Ruskin’s session was very enthusiastic. Dozens of wide-mouthed children listened to the reading and asked questions, dozens of adults (including one magnificently energetic middle-aged sardarji) tripped over themselves in a bid to capture the “author-saab” on their camera-phones. Don’t recall seeing anything quite like it even when Salman Rushdie was at the Jaipur festival. Poor Ruskin looked a bit ill at ease, and who could blame him: he spends most of his time in the quiet hill-town of Landour, which is very poor preparation for a Select Citywalk crowd on a Friday evening.
(This seems like a good time to mention that Ruskin’s story submission for the Tehelka anthology was written in his own hand – he doesn’t use even a typewriter – and sent across by courier, since email is out of the question. The handwritten original is with me and I have no intention of parting with it.)