By Nilima Pathak
Indian celebrity author Ruskin Bond speak with Nilima Pathak on communing with nature, his life in the hills and his affinity for children
I’m not a recluse as people think. I meet people and have friends. It’s just that I like to be in a small place—away from the madding crowd.
For me nature is very personal. That’s because I have lived very close to it up in the mountains for the last 35 years. But even before that I was quite in kinship with forests and the general flora of the country. In India, and particularly in the Hindu religion, there’s a very strong element of nature. In my case, I feel since I’ve lived so close to it, the influence shows in my work. Many of my books and stories have for the last many years had the strong element of the natural world. I’m not a workaholic but I enjoy my writing, which I do everyday.
As for nature, what impresses me most is its overpowering indifference to us. While we might love nature, it doesn’t necessarily love us in return. It has two faces. The general face is that of joy, which it gives us through birds, butterflies and flowers. The other is of fire, floods and earthquakes. Thus, both creation and destruction are in its hands.
Very often one goes to nature for tranquility, for communing with oneself. Personally, it’s been very rewarding and has many times prevented me from going nuts! I like wild flowers, evergreen trees and a walk in nature’s garden. If you are sad, you can go out in the open and find solace. If you’re happy you feel happier. I get the greatest thrill and pleasure if I am taking a quiet walk in the hills and suddenly spot a new flower or the first flower of spring. It’s something unusual, something so pure, beautiful and innocent. It sort of symbolizes perfection. I’m not a religious person but if I were to say I have a religion, then I would say I’m a nature worshipper.
I come to Delhi once or twice a year. But usually after a couple of days I run away from the city. Although it’s a good city with parks and gardens, it’s no doubt easier in the hills to live and admire nature. But if you have a small flat in the city, you can still have nature around. Bring in the natural world as much as possible. A little space for working and sleeping and the rest for plants! It does help to get through life without having a nervous breakdown.
In Mussoorie, I live a little away from the town, because towns are very crowded and cluttered. From central Mussoorie it’s an hour’s walk. I feel I’m not in the most ideal location, but then who is? But one of the pleasures of living in a hill station is you walk a lot and remain fit. One is lucky to be living in a small cottage in a quiet place. However, these days quiet places can’t be found easily. You may have to look for them! I have kinship with trees, mountains and streams and although I am close to them, I would like to be closer.
I have large adopted families and with lots of children around, I’m seldom alone in the house. But when I desire to be alone, I can always go for a walk. I like writing for children, and get along well with them. Basically it depends on your nature. In my case I’ve always wanted to rediscover childhood. Mine wasn’t a happy one. And maybe I try to recreate it through other people’s childhood. That way I find a certain lost happiness. I also live my childhood through children who I write for. I think it’s the child in the adult, which is strong in me. As there’s an adult in every child, there’s a child in every adult. Also I feel, writing for children keeps one young and helps in not becoming cynical.
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