Thursday, April 26, 2018

Woman Defined Photo Exhibition

Evelyn Hannon, the lovely, purpose-driven Journey woman is devoted to travel, like very few people are. It seems to be her life's mantra to make the world that much better a place for us to travel in.

In April 2018, Evelyn conducted a Photography contest. The winner received a prize.

The rest of us (about 30 of us) whose photographs were selected in the Competition, find our exhibits displayed impressively in the online 'Woman Defined Photo Exhibition'

My entry of a beautiful Jaunsar Babar Girl is put under 'Hopeful.'

Watch the Exhibition here and get inspired!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Strange, confused Censorship!

I cannot believe or comprehend it. What is happening to the Social Media?

I shared an article from written by the very illustrious CEO of Lumi - the pint size power woman Jesse Genet.

Jesse writes about gender inequality at the workplace and relies heavily on humour to belabour her point. In the same vein, she uses the word "boobs" in the title.

When I opened my FB account this evening, I was shocked to notice that either someone had reported that article or FB found the title / article objectionable.

Post that checkpoint FB asked me on my recently posted album of nature, birds and flowers pictures to recomfirm that there was nothing objectionable or around nudity in the pictures in that album.

Should I tell them that the owls and birds and that Spitz in the pic. are NUDE????
On another friend's wall, on a post about Modi bashing, a woman commented on the male banana body part and the trolls got on to her with the choicest abuses, bad words and shamelessly foul language, all under the scanner of Facebook and our Government I reckon.

What gives?

Is it happening only in India or is it a global phenomenon?

Can somebody explain this to me, please???

Here's the link to the very interesting article written by Jesse Genet on Medium -

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

My heart cries a river!

When the Vale was green
and the hills lush,
When streams were clear
and didn’t carry all that slush;

When the lights glimmered
Like stars in the sky,
And did not, with wear and overuse
Struggle to stay on, then simply die;

When flowers grew on hillsides
in gay abandon,
When the corpse of our callousness
The hills did not carry as a burden;

When trees stood tall guarding
and guiding our paths and highway,
When birds lived in them
Telling us the time, and the
Way in which the wind would sway;

When dogs had roads to run on
and were not run over on,
when there were avenues people could walk on
be it night, noon or a bustling morn;

When roads were meant to be driven upon
And had not turned into parking places,
When shops lay apart
from where our houses were
And between them were vast spaces;

When we laboured to build
So as, in them, to live a life,
And not having built a monstrosity
To carry it on our shoulder like a strife;

When we tended and cared
To leave a world in which we grew,
Alas, not to tell fables ’bout birds
And bees, and the fauna and trees
For there were left only a few;

When we taught our children
The worth of values, respect and duty,
When we had the time to sit with them
And behold the universe in all its beauty;
When we dreamed of a future
And of a bright tomorrow,
When we didn’t kill our today
With greed and filled it with sorrow;

When we cared for all around
And lived in a state of harmony,
And not having plundered and looted
And ravaged, began to rewrite our own destiny;

My heart bleeds and weeps for the
World we’ve left behind,
Have we burned and buried it so deep
That those wondrous times we will never find!


Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Bonding with Bond!!!

So, I have been talking to Ruskin Bond since yesterday. When we began our conversation, he, of course, remembered his old friend Brahm Dev and reminisced about the time he would spend sitting around in Brahm Uncle's shop at Astley Hall.

What was even more remarkable is that he remembered THAT Sunday Times interview vividly. He had a little difficulty placing me first but then the memory gates opened and he recalled all about me and my visits to Muss and meetings with him in Delhi.

Today, when I called him, he had placed me well in his memory and we spoke like old friends.

His voice was genuinely warm and friendly and he was in a chatty mood today. He was quite chuffed when I told him that he sounds just the same. That his voice is still full of youngness, the same energy and vibrancy.

I was awed by his mental acuity I told him and wished to be even half of what he is when I get to his age.

He told me to come visit him in Landour. I asked him what should I get for him. And this is what he said, "I have been quite irritated this morning. I can't find Scotch tape around here. I have cello tape but it tends to stick to my pants."

I don't know what he was doing, but I must remember to bring him Scotch tape when I see him next.

As an aside, the moment Ruskin uttered Scotch, I remembered my dialogue with another writer.

One time I spoke with Kushwant Singh, I asked him what should I get for him. He said don't get anything really, but bring a bottle of Scotch and we will have a Sundowner :-)

Both great men, great writers with their own quirkiness!!! 


Monday, April 02, 2018

The Interview that Ruskin Bond called his finest!

I really got to know Ruskin Bond pretty well in the early 90s. I got to know him as an author through his books that were a staple read for us. But I became sort of friends with him through Brahm Dev – our common friend who had been bum chums with Bond over years. Brahm Uncle was my Father’s Lodge Brother and one of the strong literary voices from Dehradun along with being an ace photojournalist and the proud owner of R.K. Studios in Astley Hall, Rajpur Road. 

Through Brahm Dev, I came close to Ruskin Bond for a few years, went to his house and had delicious conversations with him over tea each time I went to Mussoorie. Once he invited us over for a simple lunch of Dal Chawal when we turned up at his Door around Noon. During those years, I would take visiting friends and members of my family to meet Bond at Ivy Cottage. We continued to meet a few times when he visited Delhi to pick up his awards or launch a book. Then we drifted apart and I have not met him in a number of years now.

But this formal interview I had with him in 1993 was his best, Bond wrote to me. A part of it was published in the Sunday pages of The Times of India back then. Here, for the first time, follows the full conversation I had with him. What is remarkable is that it is still so relevant and ageless about our times and more importantly about Ruskin Bond.


Like the mountains amidst which he has chosen to make his home, he is magnanimous and awe-inspiring, also unassuming and simple. Though this Bond is no gun-toting toughie, he is assertive, moving against the odds and doing what he likes most. If he is tough, he is one of the hardest core.

Born in Kasauli in 1934, Ruskin Bond grew up in Dehradun in his grandfather’s house and has spent most of his life in Doon, Mussoorie and Simla. As a novelist, children’s author and nature writer, his work has been published widely in India, the UK, Europe and the USA. His writing career has spanned 30 years. Some of his works have been translated into Dutch too.

In Garhwal – Heaven in Himalayas, his first coffee table book for adult reading, he pays a tribute to the hills and valleys of the Garhwal Himalayas where he has spent the happiest period of his life. “To live in magic,” a collection of his nature poems, was brought out by Living Media. And Penguin India started Puffin India with, among other titles, his famous “Panther’s Moon.”

One fine July morning, when the sky was clear and the Sun bright, I, escorted by a friend, who had a penchant for photography, decided to drive up to Landour to have a little chat with the master storyteller. Having read him in school and after, I felt like an awestruck teenager. My first question expressed my mood.

Apart from me, a million others fell in love with you while still in school. Do you write with a particular age group of readers in mind, I asked?

“As a boy I used to write for adults,” he replied. “It was only when I was 40 that I started writing for children. And I was much more successful.”

Room on the Roof, which won Bond the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957, was written when he was only 17. 

I asked him, ‘it seems to me that unlike most authors who pined for fame and success, you just happened to step into them while walking on a sidewalk, lost in thoughts about the plot of a new story. Could you comment on this?’

“When I was much younger, I was quite ambitious. In my 20s I would have craved for fame and success. As I grew older, they became less important for me. Actually, I am one of those people who always call themselves a failure no matter what they do. I sincerely feel that I could have done much more substantial work. In my life there has always been a conflict between the professional and the personal. Most famous writers give the highest priority to their work. But to me, my emotional attachments and the people in my life were more important. I haven’t done all that I could have.”

“All the same, I am a very persistent person. I read somewhere that anyone who has lost a father at a young age, as has been the case with me, is never satisfied with his work and wants to go on trying harder, maybe to compensate for the loss.”

At that moment, I became aware that he was timing his speech to match the speed of my hand. Almost sheepishly, I admitted to him that I knew no shorthand. He laughed narrating his own experience.

“When I was struggling for my first job, I quite fooled the office director who interviewed me. He asked me if I knew shorthand. I, very emphatically, said yes. Once, in the course of my job, he saw me scribbling something. He took a look at it and said he hadn’t seen it before. I told him it was the latest method. In the process I invented my own shorthand.”

Relieved by his friendly disposition, I wanted to know about his educational qualifications.

“I only managed to finish school,” he said. “I wasn’t a bad student but I was very rebellious as a boy. My Mother wanted me to join the Army but that didn’t appeal to me. I was very stubborn. I straight away wanted to be a writer. I was already earning money when in my teens so I thought why go to college. Of course, I did a lot of reading on my own. Though I don’t regret not having gone to college, I wouldn’t advise every young person to do that. The world is highly competitive today and not everyone can be a writer.”

What were your feelings about getting a literary award at such an early age, I posed my query.  

“After finishing school, I went to England for a couple of years. Since I had a stepfather I wasn’t much attached to my home. But once in England, I wrote ‘Room on the Roof ‘out of home sickness for India, not my home. It was only when I had returned to India that I learned the Book had won an award. Since no one in India had heard about it, it didn’t make much of an impact on me. Just that, a few friends were really happy for me.”

I wanted to know who he admired the most. Did he have any idols?

“I admire people who have excelled at something,” he replied. “Maybe a carpenter or an artisan who tries for perfection in his field. I liked Fred Astaire as a dancer. Among writers, I look up to Mark Twain, Dickens and Zola.”

The film ‘Junoon’ was based on your Book ‘Flight of Pigeons.’ Do you like watching films?

“In my Doon days, I was a great movie-goer. I loved musicals. I was also a very voracious reader. I read everything by Dickens, Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and many others. I also liked the classics by Balzac. Though I can’t sing a note correctly, I like listening to Indian and Western classical music. I am a great sports enthusiast too. I avidly follow international cricket and football. In fact, that’s the only time I watch TV. As a young man I used to play football. I was a better goalkeeper than I am a writer. It taught me how to save my goals rather than score one. It made me very defensive.”

A knock on the front door interrupted us. A young couple wanted Bond to speak on Ecology for their forthcoming meet. He expressed his inability to do so because of his tight self-imposed schedule but promised to write something on the subject and send it to them before their meeting. The couple, half satisfied, thanked him and left. 

Sensing how uncomfortable he had felt turning down their invitation, I asked him, ‘you seem to have difficulty in saying NO to people. Am I right?’

“I never say no to children,” he replied. “Adults, yes, because they come with a motive. Whereas, children have no ulterior motive. They just come out of curiosity to see the person whose stories they have read.”

By your own admission, you became a professional writer after school. How did you choose this profession?

“There were other things I could have done. But writing was something I did best. Other things were just glamorous ideas. I am a steady writer but not a regular one. I enjoy writing and I want to keep it that way.”

He went on to talk about theatre. “I have often been asked why I don’t write plays. But that would mean living where people stage plays like in Bombay, London etc. Writing poems and short stories is something I can do anywhere, even in a desert. I like being in the mountains. I don’t like city life. Nothing could persuade me to live, say, in Delhi. Some cities do have their charm, places with history, individual character and strange stories behind old buildings. London intrigued me because it is steeped in history. I walked about places where Dickens might have written his works.”

Have you had any formal training? Do you think writing is inborn or can it be acquired?

“Genius is inborn. May be the craftsmanship of writing can be developed. Anyone with a good knowledge of words could be a good writer but not a great one. There has to be something inside to be a really great writer. You know, Dickens and Shakespeare didn’t even finish school. As for me, I taught myself to write. I had ink in my blood.”

How important, do you think is it to have a Godfather when you begin writing novels? You know that R.K. Narayan found a friend and mentor in Graham Greene.

“I never had one that is for sure”

How should an up and coming writer cope with that eternal predicament of rejection slips?

“I used to get lots of them in the beginning. I had an outlet in ‘My Magazine of India’ – a small magazine from Madras. All my rejections would go there. That magazine used to pay me Rs. Five by money order. Once I got Rs. Three, I was outraged. They said, Rs. Two had been deducted for the annual subscription.”

“Any way, you must keep at it. The more you carry on, the easier it becomes. Of course, you should become knowledgeable about your market, you must believe in yourself. Believe that what you are doing is important. It is also important to pursue a career based on what actually interests you, though people don’t have much choice these days. And, never despair.”

There is too much of you in your stories. They don’t entirely seem fictional. How far is this true?

“Very often there is a blend of autobiography and fiction. I am a very subjective writer. I see things out of my mind’s eye. I write about experiences I have had or maybe something that hasn’t happened directly to me but has occurred in my vicinity. I am not very inventive where plots are concerned. I get ideas from what I have known and am familiar with.”

“I also find it difficult to write about unpleasant people like gangsters, psychopathic murderers, crooked politicians etc., though the world is full of them. Even the ghosts in my stories are friendly. It’s always the ghost who ends up being frightened and not the child.”

Though all your stories tug at one’s heart because of the human element in them, nevertheless most of them leave the reader feeling forlorn and wishing that there was a happy ending. Why?

“True, most of the stories have a lot of pathos. But such stories were written in the 60s and 70s. Maybe, because of the disappointments I have had on account of relationships that did not turn out as I wanted them to. When I was younger I took myself more seriously. As I grew older I started seeing my flaws and I could laugh at them. You won’t find this in the children’s books. There is more humour in them.”

What do you have to say about the state of affairs of India today?

“It is a bit depressing. A man like Nehru went about without any security. Today, even a DIG of police would have double the amount of what our PMs earlier had. One easily gets a claustrophobic feeling these days. In the 50s and 60s there was a lot of hope and optimism. Now one sees an increase in the crime rate, misbalance in the economy and unemployment among the educated youth.”

As we sat there chatting, a sweet little girl armed with a Tea tray appeared. Throwing her the indulgent look of a Grandfather that he has become to his foster family’s children, Bond introduced Savitri to us. Prem Singh, Savitri’s father, had come to work for Ruskin as a boy and now his wife and three kids also stay with him.

You have written a lot on love, I said to Bond, but didn’t you think of settling down yourself?

“Well, I was not going to get married just for the sake of it. Anyway, getting married would have put some restrictions on my writing work. And then a single man can put up with lack of money or any other hardships. But since I don’t particularly enjoy living alone, I brought up a family.”

Going by the endless number of stories and novels that you have written, should one presume that you have never faced a Writer’s Block?

“I get it sometimes. I have had it for the last three days. Whenever, I am stuck I take a long walk till I get an idea. This is something you can do in the Hills. And of course, I love taking walks.”

Looking back, would you want anything changed from what it has been?

“I am basically a contented being. Yes, I have been unhappy at times. Sometimes I feel I have failed in many ways. But I feel satisfied when I think I could have failed at the first hurdle itself 40 years ago. In a way people who indulge in literature are trying to cheat mortality. It would be nice to know that a few of the things I have written earlier are still around.”

Having rejected the glamour and lucre of a big city writer 25 years ago, Bond lives almost abstemiously, among simple people leading a simple life. I pointed this out to him.

“I don’t scorn money; you do need money in life. If not for yourself then for others. But to lead a luxurious life would be boring. I feel very uneasy with luxury.”

“Of course, I still have a dream that someday I will have a place of my own. May be just a little cottage with a big garden full of all sorts of flowers. And yes, I don’t own a car, simply because I can’t drive one. The only time I tried to learn how to drive, I went through somebody’s single brick wall straight into their lawns where they were having a garden party. Well, they did invite me for tea but only after I agreed to pay for the wall.”

What milestones have you set for yourself now?

“There are always more children’s books to write. I am also working on an autobiography, a kind of a philosophical essay about the happenings in my life. But I don’t look too far ahead. I guess, at my age, one wouldn’t.”

What message would you like to give to young aspirants who still have to make a niche for themselves?

“Be sure about what you want to do in life, then stick to it. A lot of people get easily discouraged and drop out. Enjoy your work and be ready to face a lot of disappointment. Persistence is very important.”

As we walked down the steps onto the main road, I felt I was walking out of a story by the same man whose tales I grew up reading. Ruskin Bond, marvelous and fascinating like the very hills he so much loves, dreams of a bright tomorrow where children can enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like frolicking about on the long shaded roads, dancing under a cascading waterfall and picking red, blue and yellow flowers on the track up to a hill top. He believes that heaven is a place on earth.

As he smiled a goodbye to us, he already had a faraway look in his eyes. I don’t know whether he was thinking about a friendly ghost or a pretty little girl in red ribbons to tell the children about next.

Author’s note – Today, Ruskin Bond stays in the same house, called Ivy Cottage, which has become quite a Mussoorie landmark, with the same family and a similar set of dreams. He is still a very simple man in spite of all the awards he has won, including a Sahitya Akademi Award, a Padma Shri and a Padma Bhushan.  

The only difference is that he has regaled us all a million more times with his fascinatingly simple stories that do not fail to tug at our collective hearts. 

Note - This article first appeared on Daily O on 2nd April 2018