Ruskin Bond: A Pioneer of Children Literature in India
by Gulnaz Fatima
Ruskin Bond is a well known Indian Writer in English. He has written more than hundred short-stories, six novels, three collections of verse and over thirty books for children. Ruskin Bond received Sahitya Academy award for his book “Our Trees Still Grow at Dehra” in 1992, and was honored with title “Padam Shree” in 1999, for his life time contribution to Indian literature in English. He has been writing for the last fifty years in different genres of literature.
Ruskin Bond is considered a pioneer of children literature in India. Ruskin Bond came close to children’s literature. Since Ruskin Bond liked his boyhood very much therefore all his children stories whether autobiographical or semi- autobiographical expressed his longing for a happy childhood. Ruskin Bond likes children because they are more frank, open minded and emotional. According to Ruskin Bond two children can become good friends merely by exchanging a piece of marble, a coin, a doll and bangles. Children do not like the restraints put on them by their elders. Ruskin Bond loves children because they are not deceptive. All children love freedom, jumping in pools, climbing on trees, and are always curios to know about their surroundings so Ruskin Bond is more close to children of the world.
Ruskin Bond had published many casual short stories for children in magazines and newspapers in India and abroad, but he started to write regularly for children when he uprooted himself from Delhi to Mussorie. After moving to Ivy Cottage, as a grandfather to Prem Singh's children he is constantly writing children stories, to amuse his adopted grand children, Rakesh, Mukesh, and Savitri. Through Writing children's stories he also fulfilled his own unfulfilled wishes and longings as a child. He writes in Scenes from a Writer's Life
that "I don't suppose I would have written so much about childhood or even about other children if my own childhood had been all happiness and light" (4). Ruskin Bond focuses on entertaining young readers. Ruskin Bond's pleasant attitude toward childhood is strongly influenced by his adolescent reading of the British and Indian Romantic poets; as poetry of Rabindranath Tagore; simple attitude of Raja Rao, R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand; and depiction of an Indian childhood in the major works of Sudhin Ghoshe. He follows the romantic views of Wordsworth, Shelly, and Coleridge. He sees dignity in the daily experiences and in the understated lifestyle of the people who live in the hilly Garhwali’s towns and villages.
Ruskin Bond does not like the traditional children stories of India but he prefers stories like “Maugli” by Rudyard Kipling. Ruskin Bond’s art of characterization is unique and different from others although many critics find fault with him for being autobiographical and subjective but Ruskin Bond can be defended by comparing him with Charles Lamb. Ruskin Bond’s characters are both types and individuals and most of them represent the middle class. Ruskin Bond like Maugham chose characters from his own surroundings neither abstract nor based on his imagination. The rich and poor, small and grown up, vendor, trader, schoolboy, gardener, all are portrayed in their respective way of living. Some of his characters resemble his father, Somi, Mr. Kapoor, Meena, caricatures like Rusty, Kishan, and some others are adjusted in the fictional world.
His book for children, The Hidden Pool,
is a collection of short stories. The Hidden Pool,
is the story of three friends, Laurie, Anil and Kamal. Laurie is the son of a British engineer in India and Anil and Kamal are his Indian friends, who introduce him to the festivals, foods, and traditions of India. Laurie finds out a hidden pool in the mountains which varnishes their friendship. Hidden Pool,
is the place where they swim, wrestle, and make plans a trip to a glacier at 12,000 feet above sea level. Ruskin Bond's another children's book, Grandfather's Private Zoo,
is a collection of ten short stories that had been published at an earlier time in a various magazines and newspapers, some of these stories are written in the early 1960s in Delhi. The collection of the stories refers the happy times which Ruskin Bond had spent at his grandmother's house in Dehra, in these stories he takes the theme from the statements, heard through the people of village about his Grandfather, Clerk’s fondness for unusual house pets. Ruskin Bond presents the book in first person narration as an autobiography, only to make it authentic.
He respected all religions reflected through the characters of his stories that belong to different sects, culture, and religions. Ruskin Bond regarded India and Indians superior to western civilized individuals. Many of his stories are direct satire on western culture and civilization. In India he found humanism whereas western people have become only a machine of amassing wealth. India is the land of fables because here in India children are fond of listening to stories related by their grandparents before going to sleep.
Ruskin Bond got success as a writer for adults, and then he became interested in writing stories about children. In his introduction to The Night Train at Deoli and other Stories
he writes that in the 1970s, when he was facing all kind of problems, his stories relating to children coped with the difficult situation. Earlier he had written a few stories for children and published in magazines and newspapers in India and abroad, but while in Mussorie, after shifting to his new home, Ivy Cottage he started writing more frequently for children as he played the role of grandfather to Prem Singh’s children. He was always thinking of new stories to tell Rakesh, Mukesh and Savitri. His innovation was to make children protagonist in his stories. Also these stories satisfied his own urge and desire to write about his lost childhood. He writes in ‘Scenes from a Writer’s Life’ to the following effect:
“I don’t suppose I have written so much about children if my own childhood had been all happiness and light. I do not find that those who have contended, normal childhood, seldom remember much about them; nor do they have much insight into the world of childhood”.
Fortunately, his trauma was channelized toward children’s classics, which gave an outlet to his own agonies. Ruskin Bond found a resemblance with David Copperfield who sustained himself in an unfriendly world. The thought that children are rarely given attention by their elders, made him more sympathetic towards them. The children he came across in villages, their every day experiences suggested themes for his stories. Ruskin Bond always enjoyed their company. Ruskin Bond’s children stories can be put into two categories: “personal and impersonal ones”. Personal stories are autobiographical or semi- autobiographical in tone, where he records his own reflections, unfulfilled passions and small adventures. These are stories like “My Father’s Trees in Dehra”, The Funeral, When I can’t Climb Anymore, The Tiger in the House, The Playing Fields of Shimla, Life with Uncle Ken, the Cherry Tree, The Last Tonga Ride, Coming Home to Dehra, All Creatures Great And Small, The Tree Lover. These stories show young Ruskin Bond’s affinity with trees and pets and his love for the town, Dehra. He was deeply attached to the places where he spent his childhood; hence his stories are nostalgic and vivid bringing to life and charming little places, colonial bungalows and fruit laden orchards where he wandered about as a boy. His stories for children reflect his rich imagination.References:
1. Bond, Ruskin. “Rain in the Mountain” New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd. 1993,
2. Bond, Ruskin. Complete Short Stories and Novels. New Delhi: Viking/Penguin, 1996.
3. Bond, Ruskin. The Best of Ruskin Bond “My Father’s Trees in Dehra” New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd. 1994,
4. Bond, Ruskin."Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright." Panther's Moon and Other Stories, New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd. 1994,
5. Bond, Ruskin. “The Night Train at Deoli and other stories” New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd. 1988,
6. Bond, Ruskin. "Love Is a Sad Song" Complete Short Stories and Novels. New Delhi: Viking/Penguin, 1996.
7. Bond, Ruskin. “The Sensualist” Complete Short Stories and Novels. New Delhi: Viking/Penguin, 1996.
8. Ruskin, Bond. “Scenes From a Writer’s Life”, New Delhi: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 1997.