Beloved Mr. Bond
The first novel that you wrote for children was the first that I read as a child. It has been ten years since then and I haven’t stopped reading, nor have you stopped writing (something I am immensely grateful for).
Anil, Kamal and Laurie took a trek to the Pindari Glacier and I too accompanied them. But unlike them my journey didn’t end at the glacier, it ended in the world of words. Leaving me at the threshold of the beginnings of many other such journeys.
As I wormed my way through your books, I have smacked my lips after a plate of chaat near the clock tower; licked my fingers after gorging on Granny’s delicious Roast Duck; and even treated my insistent friends to Jalebis in spite of being perpetually broke myself. I have faced the wrath of the Angry River; made an escape from Java; and came back to the Himalayas.
Before coming across your books, I was whiling my childhood away watching Pokémon or breaking bricks with Mario’s fist as he gallantly overcame obstacles (read turtles and wickedly toothed flowers) to rescue Princess Peach. To be honest, I still wasn’t up to much good even after I got into the habit of reading. But I’ll still say, that for some hours each day I would read and not wreak havoc (much to my mother’s relief), in my Peter Pan-collared frock with puffed sleeves looking almost angelic in my two pigtails.
Now that I have become a voracious reader, I have come to realize the importance of children’s writers, as the nurturers of the next generation of readers. There have been times when you haven’t been able to lure me into reading you at a book shop. Still there was no escaping you at school, for you would always lie in wait amidst the pages of my literature reader that I would HAVE to read!
Reading your short stories and notes over the years in some anthology or another, I have become all too aware of the troubles that Tutu created or the mishaps that Uncle Ken blundered his way into. It always leaves me with a sense of déjà vu and more than slight irritation at the publishers who would keep on selling the old stuff as new!
Reading and re-reading your works have given me given me much comfort and solace, at different times in different ways. It is strange how you understand me, even though you haven’t met me. Perhaps, it isn’t I whom you understand but humans (living or dead).
Sometimes you have been like a chubby cushiony grandpa who’ll let me sit on his lap and regale me with stories from far and beyond. And sometimes you are like that sympathetic friend who’ll take me for ice-creams after a debilitating break up. My perception of you depends on how old and beaten I feel or just how young and full of possibilities!
The matchbox-like apartments in which we, city-dwellers, lead our lives don’t leave much room for nature. Our windows do not open to natural wilderness but human wildness. I didn’t have the hillside for a playground, but a rectangular plot of parched grass with a few swings scattered around the corners. Open maidans didn’t manifest as cricket grounds where Ranji played in my imagination, but existed as political dharna grounds where Ramdev embarrassed himself. I grew up climbing monkey bars and not trees. And never in my life have I seen a sparrow.
You listen to birdsong and I to the noises from the construction site. You smell the rose in your garden and I buy its bottled essence. You dip your feet in a flowing river or stream and I get pedicures. The experiences and surroundings you talk about are so far from our reach (326.4 kilometers to Landour from Delhi). But reading you makes it all accessible. The sulphurous fumes and the blaring horns become a forgotten reality for us planesfolk as we read your words, pine scented and ringing with the clear trills of mountain streams.
Your reflections on life, help me put mine in perspective. I have learned to appreciate life, however it is. I live in a housing society where there is a greater variety of cars than trees and grey pigeons fly at the backdrop of grey buildings. But I carry the beauty of the idyllic life from the Himalayas in my heart, looking for parallels with my own, as I undertake lonesome walks on the frequented society road. The metalled roads are black, but there will always be a part which will be drawn over by chalk in white, blue or even pink or simply the red sandstone. If not the hopscotch designs, there are always toads squished by heavy cars to look at. It is a disgusting sight but not that bad for one who is interested in anatomy. And sometimes, there is a friend who’ll make those walks less lonesome and whistle a song as you try to make out which one it is.
I am yet to figure out the tunes of my own song. But may I end by complimenting on how beautiful yours has been.
Waiting for your next book,
Beloved Mr. Bond