By Debayan Mukherjee
"I sometimes feel that the world is certainly not a better place." To hear renowned author Ruskin Bond -- who helps transport children to a surreal world in the lap of nature -- say this is painful.
Growing conflict, violence, environmental degradation -- all these worry the 82-year-old popular writer.
"I sometimes feel that the world is certainly not a better place. In spite of all the advances in science and medicine, there is more conflict. We have done our best to destroy the natural world around us. Trees are on their way out. To some extent all this (building of concrete for industry) is required, but it's overdone," Bond told IANS in a one-on-one on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Literary Meet here.
Talking of decadence in the modern world, the literary icon said while it was there during his formative years, individual violence has become more profound now.
"Decadence has always been there. Maybe violence has been there too, but of a different kind. When I was a boy I wasn't myself confronted with violence, but there were wars going on. World War II, the freedom movement in India, Quit India movement and one saw riots and disturbances, and partition happened. There was no shortage of violence. Now it's a case of individual violence," he said.
Born in Kasauli in 1934 and having spent most of his childhood amidst the serenity of the Himalayas, Bond's tales of childhood and love, people and trains, and hills and rains, still capture the imagination of the young.
Among his ocean of work, Bond's stellar creations include "The Room on the Roof" (1956), "Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra" (1992), "The Blue Umbrella" (1974) and "A Flight of Pigeons" (2003).
He is "fed up" of violence in movies and television serials to which children are exposed to at a very early stage. "You see so much violence in our movies and television serials. There are horror films, aliens, torture scenes (laughs), I get fed up trying to find out something on TV that I can enjoy.
"I might get scared watching them. But they (modern-day children) enjoy it and don't seem to be bothered."
Bond does not use a mobile phone, nor does he know how to use a laptop, forget the social media. Quizzed on the reason for shunning what today is a must-have, the Mussoorie resident said he is unwilling to be a slave of technology.
"I don't bother and don't make that effort even. But I am very cunning, I may not use technology but since everybody in my household has got either mobile phones or laptops, I let them do it for me (laughs).
"I take advantage of the technology without becoming a slave to it. One day my grandson Gautam, who is 14, in my adopted family asked, 'Dada (grandfather) what is your favourite song'? I mentioned a song that I hadn't heard for 50 years or so, but a few minutes later he was playing it for me on his laptop. That made me very happy as a result of which I gave him some extra pocket money."
Bond walked on the same path when asked about the ill effects of social media on today's children.
"It's useful but it can be a deterrent too. Sometimes it's hard to get them to study even for an exam which requires the traditional way of studying. It can be a deterrent if you become a slave to it."
Has this also put a spanner in the reading habits of children?
"It does but sometimes you might want to read on screen. I meet kids who do read as well. But in a majority of cases it would take them away from books," said Bond, who received the Sahitya Academy award in 1992 for "Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra".
Bond is not a fan of literary meets, opining that it has become more of fashion.
"It has become fashion. I wonder (how) so many writers turn up at all of them. So when do they get the time to write? I have come here as people in Calcutta save money to buy books which is not the case anywhere else. I feel more at home. I could do without them and will do without them."
Bond is working on his autobiography which, he said, won't tell the entire truth about himself as "a writer never reveals everything", but would give an insight into his life and illustrious career.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at email@example.com)