Monday, December 22, 2008

Ruskin goes to Select (and journalism vs facts)

(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.)


  1. The simplicity of Ruskin Bond is the most endearing feature of his writing. The joyous and sometimes profound Hill tales are still a delight for any child or adult alike.

    The man is a down to earth author who I can imagine must have been confounded by the select city crowd. The handwritten piece that you have is a wonderful memory you can be proud of. Well!I am Jealous.

  2. Would it be possible for you to put a scanned copy of it on your blog sometime later? I mean after the Tehalka Anthology release.

  3. You not only get to meet Ruskin Bond but you have his handwritten story?! If I didn't envy you enough, before...

  4. he actually lives in mussorie for the most part, doesn't he?

  5. That would be 'Precocious child quivers briefly, complies', isn't it?

  6. Yamini: will maybe put up the covering letter sometime, or add it to this post.

    Anon: so I'm told. But the letter came from Landour.

    TSS: thanks, stupid typo, have fixed it now.

  7. Lucky you! One of my favourite authors.

  8. The reporter was doing a yeo(wo)man's service to the nation, I must say.
    And Count me among the jealous souls too.

  9. I have his handwritten letter! :)

  10. At Jeffrey Archer's book reading at Landmark, Gurgaon last year, the journo asked me which were my favourite Archer books.
    Twelve Red Herrings.. I said.
    ..and?? any others?..
    umm well.. Kane and Abel..
    Oh! Could you say that? Would you say that on Camera?? Coz it's like an India favorite?
    But I like Twelve Red Herrings better..
    yeah but Kane and Abel is an India favourite, right? say Kane and Abel!
    "..Yet another instance of journalism holding up a mirror to society.."??

    P.S. Ruskin Bond! sheesh! missed it :(