Usually when I finish reading a book for review, I wait a day before writing my piece, use another day to tweak and it’s done and ready to send off. This time, however, I’ve pulled every trick from my procrastinator hat and put off writing for almost two weeks. Finally I’m all out of excuses. I’ve written my notes, scratched them out, rewritten, deemed it rubbish and scratched that out as well. The idea of writing a review for Ruskin Bond’s autobiography Lone Fox Dancing is an exciting and terrifying writing assignment all at once.
There are reviews already out there about his book, which draw attention to the khansama special mutton kofta curry, the ayah who influenced his early stories, his short-lived and heartwarming bond with his father, the England years and subsequent return to India, a young bear in a plum tree, and his many years spent writing in a room in the hills.
They highlight significant moments, applaud his ability to paint vivid pictures of nature and people and celebrate the man who I am certain has been an inspiration for innumerable writers. I’ve decided not to do a traditional review, about what to expect and enjoy in the book, but to just talk about how I feel; as a reader, as a writer and as Ruskin Bond fan. To draw your attention to what moved me and wowed me in this fascinating account that is now the most precious book in my collection.
Immersing myself in this book has felt like an unexpected and glorious reward for being a Bond reader for many years. It’s the story behind the storyteller – the close look at the life of a man who decided at 16 that he wanted to be writer. And boy, did he make it happen! Bond is candid, he’s funny and he’s captivating; revealing the good, the bad and the ugly with brutal honesty. And all of it together, makes for compelling and engrossing read.
In a conversation with this friend Azhar, Bond says, “And when all wars are done, a butterfly will still be beautiful.” This simple, yet poignant sentence blew me away. If there were ever a writer cut from a different cloth, it’s got to be this man. His recollections of the war from the perspective of a young boy are meaningful; he doesn’t see the bigger picture then, but just how it disrupts his life. It curbs the freedom to go out and watch movies, it results in friends and teammates having to move to Pakistan after Partition; a commentary on simpler times, when the world was not overly connected.
Bond talks about missing “the intimacy of human contact” in England. Missing the freedom to be familiar with people without having misgivings. In an increasingly disconnected and apart world, he voices how many of us feel but don’t express, “I missed everything that made it all right to be sentimental and emotional.”
There are plentitude of lines that call out to me, that made me gasp, smile and reflect, but here the most powerful summation that made me pause and recollect every nuance and incidents that shaped Bond’s life. “As a boy, loneliness. As a man, solitude. The loneliness was not of my seeking. The solitude I sought. And found.”
I am awed by the dedication and fortitude of a man, who come what may, kept doing what he loved — writing — and has given us the gift of so many wonderful, engaging stories. I’ll leave you with this: Sometimes when words ring true, I’m like a lone fox dancing, In the morning dew. Thank you, Ruskin Bond, for being a magical lone fox. And thank you for drawing us into your dance.
Lone Fox Dancing
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Pages: 277; Price: Rs 599