Dear Ruskin Sir,
Wishing you a very very Happy 82nd Birthday Sir! I know you would never be coming across this letter but a girl can always wish! I have always been a dreamer, a wisher, living in my own little world whenever time permits, even now. And somehow that little world lies in a quaint little hill town in the laps of the Himalayas. My love for the mountains was something people have always associated with the places where I grew up in. Yes, it was, but that’s just one of the reasons. By the time I was old enough to realise my love for the tranquility and the thrill of the hills, I had read a lot of your books. And I would like to believe that THAT was the catalyst. Yes, I was born in the Changlang District in Arunachal Pradesh, spent a major chunk of my growing up years in the Darjeeling District and also in Kathmandu, Nepal (thanks to Daddy Finicky and his job!) But there was always something about your stories that made me crave that perfect little cottage with a British name and the old stone walkways, seeing the moss-covered graves amidst the sky-touching oaks and deodars, going to the little market-place with the regular groundnut-seller, the postman, the tea-seller..
I was reading Enid Blyton, R.K.Narayan, Roald Dahl, and so many others while growing up and I loved them (too), but your stories Sir, I could see them unfold right before my eyes. I was right there at Grandfather’s Private Zoo, I imagined walking Timothy, the tiger (both being the very first books of yours I read). I could well imagine myself standing on the Wilson’s Bridge where Mrs.Ray kills herself, I was with Inspector Keemat Lal when he solves the Rani’s murder mystery, I could see Rakesh’s cherry tree grow in time-lapse mode, I craved Binya’s Blue Umbrella. Ah! I could go on and on forever recalling all of those stories. My fond memories of growing up involved my trips to the library and requesting the librarian an extra book per week for which I had to write down an application to the Principal! Just so I could carry all those books back home and immerse myself in the adventures, but most of the times, in the peace and serenity.
By my late teens, I had read so many other books (a lot of forbidden ones too), from gooey romantic ones by Nicholas Sparks, Christina Abbey, Emily Brontë, Jane Eyre to Danielle Steele to murder mysteries of Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, James Patterson, John Grisham, Lee Child to historical ones like White Moghuls. I was reading and reading whatever I could lay my hands upon. And somewhere, I had lost you. But then came that point when life came to a standstill-I had to come to Calcutta and amidst the constant humdrum of the city and my crave for the mountains, I rediscovered my yearning for your stories. That was my only solace. That was when I read The Sensualist, Delhi is not far, A Flight of Pigeons, Susanna’s 7 Husbands (OK, I admit reading that one after Saat Khoon Maaf, the movie and watching you in it! *fan-girl moment*). That was when I understood you truly were for the 9 to the 90.
And now, when I am all grown up (sad!), there’s this secret I would want you to know. I still carry around any one of your books with me. I travel 4 hours a day to work and back and your short stories keep me away from the crowd and the pollution and the constant bickering around me. For those 4 hours, I am not on a local train in Calcutta but on the Night Train about to reach Deoli at 5am in the morning cutting through the green darkness of the forest. Those 4 hours when I do read, I could be anyone from Binya to Bisnu to Rakesh or even Rusty!
Thank You Sir! Thank you for a wonderful childhood! And that secret passage leading back to it in my adulthood!
A Finicky Fan!
Image Courtesy: Penguin India