I will never get tired of Ruskin Bond’s writings. His unhurried words seem to reflect his gentle demeanor. How easily does he talk about the simple pleasures of life—taking a walk in the wilderness, gazing at the setting sun, observing the flowers and the birds and welcoming them to his abode with equal fervor. The little anecdotes of his life give admirers like me a slice of his experiences and inspire to indulge in everyday affairs wholly and without regrets.
Near Mussoorie and once a convalescent base of the British military—Landour is a scenic little settlement from where you can view the Nandadevi range and the famous Bandarpunch peak. This is the place that Mr. Bond calls home and penned a book by the name Landour Days. I picked it when I visited Mussoorie last winter and got my copy signed by the man himself. On Saturdays, you will find him signing books for his fans at the Cambridge Book Depot.
Landour Days will walk you through all four seasons of the year—Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter that he fondly talks about; of his favorite flowers that can withstand the harsh climates and inhospitable conditions; the mundane days and years of his life and those ordinary people who left indelible impressions on him; and above all, the inevitable question, which he often encounters—what it takes to become a writer.
In this book, I discovered certain habits that I could relate to and ways he approaches his life, revealing a different dimension of his joyful personality. And joyful he is, which I shall talk about in a while.
A few lessons to take back home…
Keep a Journal
Mr. Bond mentions his habit of journaling, which he has done since his childhood. He talks about the importance of doing it and how it has helped him revisit the memories of the past and aid him in his writing. And I could not agree more. I try to do it often, if not daily. A profound quote, an eventful day, a wonderful trip—a journal is the best record keeper of your life. At times, it is embarrassing to look at your own misgivings, antics, but it is a joy to reminisce life’s little moments. You wonder at your own transformation—in your thoughts and in character.
As for the author, besides much of what you will find in his books has been taken from his journal, he also uses it to meditate on his daily life; and on Nature, with whom he shares an intimate and sacred relationship.
Of Writing and Recognition
It is not easy being a writer. You must be in it for a long haul. He says that not everyone is cut out for a Nobel or a Booker, and neither for recognition. You will go through moments of rejection and resent being a writer. You might also have to live your life from paycheck to paycheck. Yet in these indefinite occasions, you will stick it out if you are that steadfast writer who takes pride in his craft and enjoys the process of writing.
Just as the author says, “I ask myself: Did I find my dream? Most of it, I do believe. To live independently as a full-time writer was part of that dream. No riches, no houses, no cars, no computers. But independence, certainly.” This shows his dedication for the life—the life of a writer—he decided to live by, come what may and enjoy the quiet life in the mountains amid books, nature, family, and friendships.
In an answer to what it takes to become a writer, here is what he advises the young aspiring ones:
- Become more observant, take notice of your surroundings
- Take interest in people and things beyond oneself. One cannot keep writing about himself.
- Do not seek instant recognition. It might take a lifetime for that. If one is ready to wait out, he or she may continue in this path. Else, finding a different vocation would be much easier.
- The single remedy for writer’s block is to do nothing but to keep writing
Counting the Pleasures of Life
On a dull day, Mr. Bond rather prefers to make a list of things that he would take delight in doing them—watering his Geraniums, glancing through the books, listening to bird songs, receiving the first rays of the sun from his bed and listening to his favorite songs by Nelson Eddy. These simple affairs allow the author to find his nuggets of happiness and days of fulfillment.
A beautiful contemplative way of living in the moment!
Finding little pleasures of life is not a mammoth task. It all begins with how you look at your life. People might still sulk despite living in the comforts, having amazing careers, health and relationships.
If one knows how to savor the finer things, one will find joy even in the gloomiest days of his life.
Looking at the newly formed buds and sprouting leaves, a siesta on a balmy day, the morning tea in solitude, picking an unread old book from the shelf—all these are simple pleasures of my life. Perhaps, if you have not started living mindfully, you must start doing so. You will find your ordinary days, extraordinary.
You will find tidbits of wisdom scattered in the book, told in an unpretentious manner. Every word he writes is a reproduction of his personal experiences. Punctuated with lively humor throughout the book, you learn how he takes every setback—be it a terrible review of his book or things that are left undone—in stride joyfully. And, I could not agree more when he says that writing for a living is a battlefield. I also learned that David Copperfield got him into writing. The character David influenced young Ruskin to become a writer.
Another book that influenced him deeply was Fortitude by Hugh Walpole.
I can never get enough of his musings. He talks about his days of yesteryears; his love for the natural world—he could go on about insects, birds, trees and hills; his love for reading and the works of Shakespeare, Thoreau that were a distinct part of his childhood.
After I came back from work today, I went to my garden to water my plants. Suddenly, I hear a sharp call of a bird and look up to find a kite perched on the tree next to my house, silent and still. It made my heart flutter at the sight of it. So much so for these little joys of life only to realize that Mr. Bond has always kept his spirits high by taking note of such simple things and sharing them with the world.
Landour Days—this writer’s journal was truly worthwhile!