"The lone fox dancing" | Ruskin Bond, Lone Fox Dancing, My Autobiography
Ruskin Bond’s autobiography is a treat for avid readers, even more for aspiring writers, writes Radhika Dutt.
There are a few lives that have been able to move population across age-groups, with the simple power of ethereal writing. Ruskin Bond continues to be one of those authors – who are widely read from the comfort of a rocking chair as one steps into the winter of life, or while rocking the cradle of a stubborn infant who refusing to sleep still seems to find some solace hearing of Tutu, the notorious monkey.
In his recently published autobiography, ‘Lone Fox Dancing,’ the Bond whose name you wouldn’t forget, traces the journey of wisdom that he has acquired living a memorable life of 83 years, from Kasauali, to Jamnagar, Dehradun to Delhi and Shimla; until travelling to England in the early 1950s, only to be back to India – which he lovingly referred to, as his only home – the home that has nurtured him, where he “could feel free to be a failure.”
What always stands out in a Ruskin Bond story is the simplicity with which he delivers, the glory which he adds to the everyday, the mundane. His autobiography, is incidentally the longest book he has ever written; validly so, given the myriad of personal experiences which he must have encountered to conjure the magic which is reflective in his literature.
Bond’s eye for detail is beautifully exemplified in this text as he talks about growing up – from describing his beloved Ayah, with whom he nurtured a relationship of great affection – noticing her skin texture and even how she smelt; to describing his first experiences of Delhi – where he talks about the city in its absolute entirety. Really absolute – on one hand stand the tall and magnificent Mughal structures that inspire great awe, on the other hand he talks about the colonies of ants that “were like a German Panzer regiment, disciplined, unwavering,” as he noticed during the summer months in a very hot Delhi.
Ruskin Bond was naturally born to be a writer. This is explicit as he sits to write his autobiography, he talks about his experiences, noticing almost everything that is occurring around him. At the end of the book, the reader is left with profound calm, imagining the wonders that he has enlisted. Then suddenly, you remember, this is an autobiography, what have I gathered about him, aside from his observations? The charm of a true writer possibly lies here, to elude the reader and immerse them in a world of marvel, taking them away from the objective purpose. Yet, what are we divorced from our perceptions of the world – Bond exemplifies this beautifully. As he himself says, “The most fictional of all my characters is myself.”
From a reader’s imagination Ruskin Bond comes across as a joyful man, who would do little to dwell in grief and pain. The subtlety with which he describes his experience of dealing with his father’s untimely death resonates strongly with those who have unfortunately had to experience the death of a dear one. He puts into words what many experience but can never fully comprehend – “You never really get over the loss of a beloved. You learn to live despite it.” A possible upside of being a writer could be this – the ability to at least be able to comprehend complex emotions within the proximity of a pen and paper. But that has a down side too, it rarely leaves you requirement to accommodate anybody else, because rarely do we need anything more than a silent listener – which, we find in our blank papers that would soon be filled only with what we have to say. It provides proximity; and, undivided attention.
From studying with the princesses of Jamnagar, to being regularly berated by a dominating grandmother in Dehradun, or moving across to his growing days in Shimla, where he made a great gang of friends only to be separated soon by the 1947 partition –Ruskin Bond’s childhood was anything but bland – possibly because of his curious mind that always sought out to know more, find people to hold more interesting conversations with, or just to enjoy the time in wilderness. Amid all his journeys he has been able to nurture relationships, often ending in futility, but nonetheless glorious for the time that they lasted.
Ruskin Bond’s autobiography is a must read for anyone who has grown up with his books, anybody fascinated with the lives of people, and most for those who aspire to be writers. That a journey is not a bed of roses has never been better exemplified. A true artist, a precise observer, and creator of great knowledge – Ruskin Bond would be the best literary gift that the British left back for India, or maybe the worst loss for the British, as they had to pack their bags out of India, while he chose to stay back in his real home – “the land of acceptances.”
Filled with lovely pictures across his days, and of course glorified by his even more beautiful language- ‘Lone Fox Dancing’ should not be missed. The dance will surely leave all its audience screaming out, ‘Encore! Encore!’