Ruskin Bond is an award winning Indian author of British descent, much renowned for his role in promoting children’s literature in India. A prolific writer, he has written over 500 short stories, essays and novels. His popular novel ‘The Blue Umbrella’ was made into a Hindi film of the same name which was awarded the National Film Award for Best Children's Film, in 2007. He is also the author of more than 50 books for children and two volumes of autobiography. Born as the son of a British couple when India was under colonial rule, he spent his early childhood in Jamnagar and Shimla. His childhood was marred by his parents’ separation and his father’s death. He sought solace in reading and writing, and wrote one of his first short stories at the age of 16. He then moved to the U.K. in search of better prospects, but returned to India after some years. He earned his living by freelancing as a young man, writing short stories and poems for newspapers and magazines. A few years hence he was approached by Penguin Books who published several collections of his work, helping establish him as a popular author in India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2014.
Childhood & Early Life
Ruskin Bond was born on 19 May 1934 in Kasauli, Punjab, British India, to a British couple, Edith Clarke and Aubrey Bond. His father served with the Royal Air Force from 1939 to 1944.
His parents separated when he was young and his mother soon remarried a Punjabi man. Ruskin was very close to his father who died of jaundice when Ruskin was 10 years old.
He went to the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, from where he graduated in 1950. He loved reading and was especially influenced by the works of T. E. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Rudyard Kipling.
Soon he turned to writing as well and won several writing competitions in the school including the Irwin Divinity Prize and the Hailey Literature Prize. He wrote one of his first short stories ‘Untouchable’ at the age of 16 in 1951.
After graduating from high school he went to the U.K. in search of better prospects. While in London he began working on his first novel, ‘The Room on the Roof’. It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1957), awarded to a British Commonwealth writer under 30.
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Ruskin Bond worked for a while in a photo studio while trying to find a publisher for his works. Once he started earning money from his writing, he moved back to India and settled in Dehradun.
He spent the next few years earning his living as a freelance writer, penning short stories and poems for newspapers and magazines. In 1963, he went to live in Mussoorie where he furthered his writing career.
By this time he was a popular writer and his essays and articles were published in numerous magazines and newspapers, such as ‘The Pioneer’, ‘The Leader’, ‘The Tribune’, and ‘The Telegraph’. He also edited a magazine for four years.
In 1980, one of his most popular novels, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ was published. His increasing fame as a writer caught the attention of Penguin Books. The publishers approached Bond in the 1980s and asked him to write a few books. Two of his previous novels, ‘The Room on the Roof’ and its sequel ‘Vagrants in the Valley’ were published in one volume by Penguin India in 1993.
Over the ensuing years several of his works including a collection of his non-fiction writings, ‘The Best Of Ruskin Bond’ and collections of short stories ‘The Night Train at Deoli’, ‘Time Stops At Shamli’, and ‘Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra’ were published. Some of his popular titles in the supernatural genre are ‘Ghost Stories from the Raj’, ‘A Season of Ghosts’, and ‘A Face in the Dark and other Hauntings’.
Ruskin Bond’s writing career spans over five decades over the course of which he experimented with different genres including fiction, essays, autobiographical, non-fiction, romance, and books for children. He has authored over 500 short stories, essays and novels, more than 50 books for children, and two volumes of autobiography, ‘Scenes from a Writer's Life’ and ‘The Lamp is Lit’.
Some of his works have been adapted for the television and films. Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj made a film based on his novel for children, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ in 2007. The movie won the National Award for Best Children's film. The Hindi film ‘7 Khoon Maaf’, is based on Bond’s short story ‘Susanna's Seven Husbands’.
The novel ‘The Blue Umbrella’ is one of his best known works. The story is about a little girl who trades her old leopard claw necklace for a pretty, frilly blue umbrella. Set in a small village in Himachal Pradesh, it is a simple yet heartwarming story which was later adapted into a Hindi film by Vishal Bhardwaj and a comic by Amar Chitra Katha publications.
Awards & Achievements
Ruskin Bond received the Sahitya Academy Award in 1992 for ‘Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra’.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2014.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ruskin Bond never married. He lives with his adopted family in Mussoorie.
The 1978 Hindi film ‘Junoon’ is based on this famous author’s historical novella ‘A Flight of Pigeons’.