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India’s always had intolerance – i wouldn’t return hard-earned awards: Ruskin Bond

Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 16, 2015
URL: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-interviews-blog/indias-always-had-intolerance-iwouldnt-return-hard-earned-awards-ruskin-bond/?utm_source=TOInewHP_TILwidget&utm_campaign=TOInewHP&utm_medium=Widget_Stry

Ruskin Bond is one of India’s most loved writers. Bond, who gave the Penguin Annual Lecture 2015, spoke with Srijana Mitra Das about writing for children today, restless small towns, his dream garden –and why he hasn’t returned his awards:

Q.: You’re an iconic writer. Yet, you haven’t been heard on the intolerance and ‘award wapsi’ debate – is that a deliberate choice?
A.: Not really. Perhaps living where i do, i’m out of the general milieu of politics. Nobody’s actually asked me for my opinion.

Q.: What is your opinion?
A.: Well, we’re living in an age of worldwide intolerance. One form of intolerance breeds another. You get a terrorist attack somewhere. Immediately, in America, Donald Trump says, no Muslims. As far as our country goes, there have always been times and incidents of intolerance – but in recent years, the media’s become so powerful that things which earlier got hushed up or died down, those things are now in your drawing room, in front of you. So, everyone is aware of what’s happening. Of course, returning awards is others’ business. I can’t judge them.

Q.: But you didn’t return any?
A.: No. It didn’t occur to me. I’m rather fond of my awards. I’d miss them. They didn’t come easily to me. I got the Sahitya Akademi Award in 93-94. I was broke then – it helped me. Giving the award back would be ingratitude on my part.

Of course, it’s personal.

Q.: You’ve written for generations of children – today, are they still intrigued by ghosts, tigers, plants?
A.: Children haven’t changed – the world around them has. Their basic natures haven’t changed. They like ice-creams. They like to have fun, play games if they get space. There’s more pressure on children today. When i was a boy, nobody said get 99% – parents were happy if you got 60%. You could enjoy life.

Children still enjoy enchantment though – they only grow up faster because they’re exposed to a more sophisticated world.

Q.: What about the small towns you wrote of ?
A.: They’ve become small cities! Materialistic life has taken over. People in small towns want the facilities, the malls, big city people have. There’s restlessness. The world of Shamli is gone. But perhaps you could only appreciate small town life if you’ve lost it.

Q.: What do you feel about it?
A.: I accept it philosophically. Change has to come. It’s not always what you’d like. It’s what other people like.

Q.: What would you like?
A.: What i’ve never had – a garden. I’ve lived in small rooms, flats, growing plants in pots on window sills. I’d have liked to have had a full-fledged garden with all kinds of flowers and plants. I’ve never had enough money to buy a big enough garden space. I remember my grandmother’s garden. But that’s long gone. Maybe there’s still time though for me to have a garden.

Q.: Are you worried about how we’re treating nature?

A.: We do intrude but the mountains are bigger than us. You have to go a little further to find the solitude you want. It’s there – but you have to go to the next mountain. And there always is one.
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