Neither age nor time has withered his charm and humour. At an age when hang their boots, the noted author continues to tryst with words, writing short stories, novellas, poems, children’s tales and essays for his huge fan following including young and old. Having shared parts of his life, Bond has finally come out with his autobiography Lone Fox Dancing – My Autobiography. Full of anecdotes, warmth and gentle wit it gives a sense of time and place and includes over 50 photographs.
On the sidelines of the launch of the book, the author talks about his life, his writings and what being Indian means to him.
What made you pen your autobiography?
All my works over the years have been autobiographical in the sense they reflect some part of my life, although I have fictionalised them to an extent. So I decided to give them all of it. Here it is my life’ story from the beginning covering my growing up and early years as a writer, about Delhi, London, Dehradun, coming back to India and moving to the hills where I have spent 50 years. It is about an author who had a lonely childhood and used that loneliness in a way to become a writer.
Most writings do reflect author’s experiences.
Yes they do but there is no writer or author who tells complete truth about himself (laughs). Also a reader will not know what is factual and what is fictional whereas an autobiography is factual. I have tried my level best to be honest with the reader and myself.
Your definition of a good autobiography
A story of an interesting life, a life of having done and achieved something that I could read with enjoyment. It need be of a literary figure. It could be that of explorer or environmentalist. Books of exploration have always fascinated me, like somebody going up the Amazon for the first time. So I immensely enjoyed Alfred Russel Wallace’s Travels On The Amazon. I liked Mahatma Gandhi’s My Experiments With Truth, a classical autobiography . I personally prefer biographies and diaries and journals.
The reason an autobiography may not be always true and the writer often leaves out a lot or has to. Whereas biographer will be probing and looking to put things the author would leave out. So perhaps in that sense a biography tells you if not more, then at least the things the person himself wouldn’t share. An interesting example is Father and Son by Edmond Gosse on his father and very critical one too. Likewise, diaries and journals are also honest. I was fascinated by The Boswell Journals and The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
How far is Lone Fox Dancing honest?
I could not be brutally honest. I did not tell lies but I did hold back things. So I suppose you could accuse me of omission but not commission (laughs). May be if I am alive for a three or four more years I may reveal more because one could not care less then. The older you get the lesser you are bothered by what others think. Having said that I would not like to hurt anyone.
Tell us about the title
It is from a little poem I wrote way back mid 1960s. Coming home late at night I saw this fox prancing and dancing in the moonlight. I identify with that fox and its solitude.
You continue to be passionate about writing
Yes, I will continue to write till the end. Passion sustains it because I like language, love words and putting them together and creating a beautiful sentence. Also I want my writing to be stylist by they can be recognised. Like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights which has a rural style. The Life and Opinion of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne, is difficult to read but nobody has written the way he did.
Writing different genres which is your favourite
I enjoy writing personal essays in the way of Charles Lamb because it goes back to the schools days when I was good in writing essays. My successful genre have been the short stories which have sustained me all the way for 65 years of writing period. I did not have the luxury of writing very long books because I always needed money for sustaining by selling my pieces as freelancer. So I kept it short and brought them out as fast as possible (laughs).
You continue to write longhand
Yes, because it is far more comfortable and makes you in personal contact with your work.
What all inspires you to write?
Nature inspires me, from trees, plants, breeze, wind and weather, birds, mountains and people too. You can’t have a story without them and I am interested in people from different walks of life. On occasions dreams too have inspired me. Like some of the romantic ones in which I go into my 20s and do some wishful thinking. The Night Train at Deoli is one such.
How do you view writing and publishing at present?
It has come a long way. Earlier there were no lit fests and book launches. The first book fair that took place in Delhi was in 1969-1970 near Regal where about 20 publishers participated. I too had a book there and signed two or three copies (smiles). Now it is different. Lots of fests and book reading and signing sessions all necessary to push sales. Having said that I think it is the work that speaks in the end.
Writers in past were known by their writings. I recall waiting at BBC studio to give a talk when another speaker came and sat down. We exchanged a few words and talked about the weather because that is what they usually do over there. Later I was told he was Graham Greene, one of the best known writers of that period. Nobody would have known unless he was introduced.
How do view your attachment to India?
It has more to do with history and a sense of belonging to the past, present and future all combined. I have always associated myself and still do so to the land, soil and earth because it is where I was born and grew up. I do not know if that qualifies as nationalism or patriotism but it is certainly love. Love of one’s country and land and all that grows on it, from plants to trees; all that lives on it, from human beings to birds and beasts.
I do not know what happens when one dies. I will want to be reborn in India and nowhere else and be a writer.