By Ruskin Bond
Try once more! That just about sums up my life. A series of failures leading up to a modicum of success.
Today we hear of smart young writers turning out instant bestsellers, their books selling in hundreds of thousands. For many years I considered myself lucky if my books were being published at all.
Now writers become celebrities. Their books are marketed like Maggi noodles. They pour from the presses like popcorn from a vending machine. Literary festivals take place in hundreds of towns and cities, and the politicians gleefully attend them. Although I have yet to read everything by Camus, Orwell and Agatha Christie, my spare table is overflowing with new books sent to me by authors, publishers and well-wishers who wish to improve my mind. Some even solicit my comments — and give me a deadline for doing so!
I will never read all these books. What will I do with them?
The pile grows higher every day.
Gautam, who has just finished school, has come up with a solution.
“Whenever I go out,” he says, “I’ll take one or two books with me, and leave them in cafÃ©s or dhabas or on park benches. That way someone may pick them up — and even read them. Literature will spread like wildfire!”
So, I fell in with his idea, gave him a little pocket money (to spend in the cafÃ©s) and off he went with his quota of books.
This quota of procedure was followed for several days, and the pile of unsolicited books was rapidly diminishing. So, I thought I’d take a look for myself and see how things were going.
Gautam had left a book on a bench just down the road from our flat. I stood behind a tree, and presently two ladies came along and pushing the book aside, sat down and exchanged the day’s gossip for about fifteen minutes before getting up and leaving. They did not even glance at the book.
Five minutes passed. Then a monkey arrived on the bench, picked up the book, bit into it to see if it was edible, spat some of it out, and then tore it in two.
After the monkey had gone, along came two small boys. They seized the scattered pages, turned them into paper airplanes, and gleefully sent them flying over the valley.
Finally I wandered down to the bench to examine the remains of the book. The cover was still intact. I picked it up. And to my horror I saw that it was by Ruskin Bond!
Where’s that boy, Gautam? No more pocket money for a week.
(Ruskin Bond is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1992, Padma Shri in 1999, and the Padma Bhushan in 2014. Extracted from the Introduction of “Stumbling Through Life,” with permission from Rupa Publications)