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A poem a day...

ZIYA US SALAM speaks to Ruskin Bond, now busy writing poems everyday.


`THE INDIA I LOVE' is doing well. And deservedly so. "It seems to be doing very good. I have been getting letters from people. There have been people coming down to get the book autographed. So, I guess it is not doing badly," says Ruskin Bond in his typically understated way about the Rupa and Company publication.

Yet the India Ruskin Bond loves does not make headlines. It is `real' India discovered in forests and towns, villages and deserts. And the hearts of people he has conquered along the way ever since he bid adieu to the West when quite young - he grew up in Jamnagar, Dehra Dun and Shimla and is now settled in Landour.

The `real' India that captured Ruskin Bond's heart now amuses him at a time when the whole country is in the grip of an election fever. "It is a celebrity election this time. Amazing! Things have changed. Now people from all walks of life are coming into politics. Many of them have no idea of the ground reality. Earlier we had people who were trained to be politicians from a very young age. Now it seems to have become a career option."

The film stars entering the electoral fray do not impress him. "They are actors, isn't it? They are not actors for nothing," he says, in a snide remark on the actors touching down the heartland of India and professing their unswerving loyalty!

Should not a man like Ruskin Bond take part in elections?

"People do not take me seriously. I am too old." On a more serious note, he adds, "I am busy writing a poem every day. I am writing on Nature, on romance, on the general situation. I won't claim to be a superior poet. You could even call it verse," he says in all humility, before revealing an interesting anecdote that helps him stays rooted.

"The other day, a man came to me with his two children. He praised my work, calling me a great man. I said, you ask this daughter, how does she find my work? The little girl replied, `Not bad. You are not a bad writer!' I take it as a compliment but it also helps me in staying focussed, and realistic."

Well, as we prepare to welcome the next poem, Ruskin Bond reveals that his anthologies on the authors of the 1920s and `30s is not doing badly either. Well, not bad for a man who at one time was not sure if he could make a living out of writing!

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