Ruskin Bond is a gift that never stops giving. In his latest offering, a memoir titled A Song of India: The Year I Went Away, Bond shares snippets of his life at age sixteen. Sixteen is an age of irrepressible excitement in anyone’s life. We are not quite children and not quite adult. We carry childlike optimism, and are simultaneously shedding the absolute innocence we are born with. We are wisening up to the ways of the world, but not quite there yet. So it seems, was life in the sixteenth year for Bond.
The author is at this point of time living in Dehradun with his family, whiling away time. He takes long walks around the small, forested valley. He spends time at the cinemas. He spends his days reading. But mostly, he spends time with three friends. All of this while nursing his dream of becoming a writer. A spat with his stepfather leads to a turn of events that becomes pivotal in his life as a writer. He skulks off to his friend’s house, and upon his return home, his mother rents a separate room for him to stay in, away from the hubbub of his stepfather and half brothers. This room becomes the inspiration for one of his most memorable works, The Room on the Roof. He starts writing stories on an old typewriter and sends them to various publishers. His story finally gets published in a magazine, and he fondly remembers the sense of triumph at his first paycheck—a princely sum of five rupees back in the day.
Bond continues his writing pursuits, with somewhat less luck for a while. In the meantime, he develops a mild crush on his friend’s older sister, a young woman who makes lovely parathas and plays amazing badminton. He moons over her, and she finds in him a friendly confidant. Her dreams of being an athlete are soon to be replaced by marriage and domesticity, but that doesn’t deter Bond from playing badminton and losing to her, as long as he gets to spend time around her. The disappointment of not attaining her love is somewhat offset by a publication in the Illustrated Weekly of India.