Dear Mr. Bond
This story is a tribute to Mr. Ruskin Bond. In 2022, on my 28th birthday, I traveled to Mussorie to meet him. Although I could not in the end (sad face) because the pandemic was still active and his family wasn’t allowing strangers to meet him because of his age and the risk involved, I did visit his house and he was kind enough to sign his books for me! I even gave him a poem of mine, although I do not know if he read it. I hope he did. For the little girl in me, who grew up reading his stories and coming to admire his work as a literature student, the thought of meeting her hero, the anticipation of seeing him and coming very close to it was surreal. This story is a half-truth, half-fantasy. It is my way of the little girl’s wish fulfillment.
Dear Mr. Bond
There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said by so many young fans who come to meet you. I just want to say that I love you with every atom in my body and every crevice of my heart. You are my favorite person in the whole world.
– With love, from a little girl who fell in love with the man she read, at first sight.
Leaning against the seatbelt, I took out the crumpled note from my pocket and read it for the zillionth time, smiling from ear to ear. The car twisted around yet another hairpin bend as we winded down the road to Landour, Mussoorie. The tall deodars must have known what lay waiting for us, for they seemed to be conspiring with the wind and dancing in our welcoming. It had been a childhood dream of mine to meet Ruskin Bond. I had stumbled across a battered copy of The Blue Umbrella in the school library; it was love at first sight. The simplicity in his writings, and his love for nature and children instilled in me an undying love for books, and by extension, for him.
So, when my friend, Harshit said that for my twenty-eighth birthday, he is going to take me to Mussoorie to meet Ruskin Bond, I was elated.
We reached Landour at sunset and the view was breathtaking. The setting sun seemed to be enveloping the winter sky in a calm caress, making it blush in hues of pink and orange.
As night fell, we checked into a homestay. It was supposed to be a one-day trip and the plan was to go to Mr. Bond’s residence the next day, meet him, and leave for Delhi the same day.
My nerves were live wires that night. Waves of exhilaration coursed through my body and I could barely sleep. I kept wondering. What would I say to a man whose books have spoken to me, words of magic and hope all my life? How would I tell him that I was irrevocably in love with him when he finally appears in front of me? Lulled by dreams of meeting my hero, I fell asleep.
We woke up the next morning and had a hearty breakfast of soup and dumplings at a popular, touristy cafe. Our stay was at Mussoorie, we checked out after breakfast and left for Landour. We asked for directions to Mr. Bond’s residence at local shops and navigated our way with the help of a map.
Finally, we reached his residence. I climbed the steps and rang the doorbell. The door was opened by a middle-aged man. I had read enough of Mr. Bond’s writings to know that it was his son, Rakesh.
“Hello, I am here to meet Mr. Bond. I am a big fan of his and it’s always been a dream of mine to meet him and today is my birthday. Could I please, please meet him?” My words came tumbling out, all in one breath.
“See, we don’t allow visitors to meet him these days. He is getting old and what with the pandemic and the virus, it’s a risk to his health.”
“I understand. I won’t touch him, I promise. If I could just see him, please?”
The sincerity on my face must have spoken to him. He paused for a bit and said
“He has gone to Dehra today for a book launch. Can you come back tomorrow at 11? I will see if he can meet you. But no promises okay?” he said wagging a finger at me.
“Okay!” I was overjoyed.
We decided to extend our trip in order to meet Mr. Bond. The odds were less but I clung to hope. Harshit and I roamed the streets of Landour for the rest of the day and the next morning, at 10:45 am sharp, I was standing in front of his door. At 11 am, I rang the doorbell and waited with bated breath.
Rakesh opened the door and greeted me with a smile. He gave me strict instructions to maintain distance and not take too long. I nodded and peeked impatiently inside the door.
A soft murmur of voices. The throaty bark of a dog.
And then, he appeared. The man who gave the world Rusty and transformed generations of children into readers by telling them all about the colorful adventures of Biniya.
“Hello”. He smiled kindly at me, his hands clasped behind his back, patiently waiting for my stream of tears to ebb.
“It is so nice to meet you”, I stammered and choked through my sobs and at that moment, it felt like a thousand splendid suns were beaming at me through the snow-capped mountains of Landour.
In a daze, I handed him my copy of The Night Train to Deoli and he signed it. My hands shook as he handed it back to me.
God bless you, he said as he went back inside, closing the door politely.
I gave the door a long look of longing, and descended the steps, towards the car waiting outside.
After getting books signed by Ruskin Bond!