Expressing concern over lack of employment opportunities for graduates from small towns of the country, the celebrated Mussoorie-based author Ruskin Bond on Monday said there is a need to bring about a change in the education system and make it more technology-friendly.
“Every day thousands of youngsters from small towns come out of colleges but they do not have access to the same employment opportunities as their counterparts in large cities. Unemployed people exceed employment opportunities,” said the author, who empathises with the problems faced by youngsters from small towns.
The author, who spoke on a host of issues at a function here to encourage book-reading among children, said if they wanted to excel in humour then they should go through books penned by P. G. Wodehouse. “He had such felicity with words and his knowledge of classics made him work on his pun. I suggest children read Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome. As someone who has grown up passionately wanting to be a writer, there is a sense of responsibility you feel towards your readers. When it comes to children, the responsibility is felt more as you want to instil good values in them, while staying humorous as well.”
Kannada author Sudha Murthy said parents must read with their children so that they develop a fondness for the language. “Everyone cannot ascend the Himalayas but they can enjoy the experience of climbing the peak by reading a book. Reading other people’s experiences makes you more mature.”
Narrating his journey as a writer struggling to make a living, Mr. Bond said when he started out in the 1950s there were not too many publishers. “I wrote my first novel while I was in England. I was feeling homesick and wanted to write about people with whom I was familiar. I prepared three drafts. It took me two years to get a publisher. I earned 50 pounds. In 40 pounds I could come to India through sea. So in 1955 I became a freelancer at Dehra Dun. Those days I would at best get Rs.50 for writing a short story.”
In those days he earned by writing short stories for newspapers and magazines. Now those stories are being used in books. “For 12 to 13 years there were only a few readers. But now those writings are getting a warm reception. Readership has increased and I think this is due to the spread of education. Even if one person in 50 likes reading then we will produce lakhs of readers. We now have so many youngsters who are selling in lakhs.”
Appreciating the fact that a number of youngsters were becoming writers, Mr. Bond said it was amazing that young people have developed a gift for telling stories. Noting that most of these young authors were “writing short essays or articles”, he said in a tongue-in-cheek manner: “We will have more writers than readers and end up reading our own books.”
Mr. Bond wrote romantic stories when he started off as a writer. “It was unrequited love. I am still single. The older you get the funnier you become. I have so many memories and nice happenings which I want to tell.”
Asked about his fondness for animals, he said there was one monkey who had sneaked into his house and was sitting near the telephone. “Maybe it wanted to make a call to his long distant relatives in Africa. I cannot leave my window open. I love animals but cannot live with them.”
The discussion was moderated by award-winning author Paro Anand.