Lone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond

There aren’t many books I lay down with a heavy heart, but my current read Lone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond is special in many ways.

I am more into fiction, and seldom try to find out about author’s life as I have a feeling that somehow after knowing the reality of their lives, their written words would become too real for me to enjoy. After all, as a famous writer said once “Things good for writing, are not good for life”. Yes, it is easier to endure pain and suffering and even digest the excellent luck and happiness, protagonists of a novel enjoy, if I know that it’s imaginary. The reality behind the production of brilliant works, makes me twirl with empathy.

However, Lone Fox Dancing is different. Here, I formed a bond with the writer so deep that the very fact that it’s not fiction but an autobiography, a man’s tryst with life, being slowly opened by himself, inviting me in his little den, to partake his little joys, sorrows, musings and meanderings, warmed my heart.

I remember meeting Ruskin Bond once. Well, it can’t be called a proper meeting as he was sitting on a chair in the Author Corner in Book Fair and I was looking at him intently from a distance of few feet! He seemed at ease, smiling nonchalantly, without making eye contacts with anyone, sans any superior airs. He seemed a harmless old man, approachable and friendly, yet the shy me preferred to observe him from afar, not wishing to break his solitude, and after a few minutes I walked away, quietly promising myself to read him soon.

But as luck would have it, I didn’t get a chance to read his books even after three years and finally when I did pick up his book, Rain in the Mountains, life’s distractions ensured I left it mid way.

But, today as I finish Lone Fox Dancing, I am glad that I never before read any of his works. Otherwise he would have been reduced into a fictional animal writer, madly in love with nature. I was destined to have our first rendezvous in his Real World, The Bond’s World. The recluse writer, who is more Indian than he looks, who is wittier than most of the other hot shot ones and much more in tune with nature than anybody I have met as yet, has entered my life unobtrusively, in tune with his first image I had formed in that Book fair!

Coming back to the book, it’s a perfect autobiography, beginning with his childhood in Jamnagar, where he had his share of naughtiness and carefree life as a toddler. Perhaps life was providing him a short breather, before plunging him into the ruthless, harsh World, as he learnt and suffered a lot after his father died. Image of a ten year old, waiting alone at a railway station wrenched my heart. Though his difficult years made him strong and very independent. So much so that he went to England, when barely 19, and even got his first novel published there. Though it did publish only after he bid adieu to that foreign land after spending 4 years and a break up.

He returned to Dehra where financial strains and a messy family life awaited him. And yet his accommodating nature ensured that he always had friends, storytellers and muses around him, and produced a steady stream of stories.

As the quote goes “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” Ruskin also developed a sturdy constitution and proceeded through life without being bitter or resentful. I connected with him more and more as he shifted to Delhi and talked about Rajouri Garden, my neighborhood and gave voice to his disgust with chaotic Delhi and yet managed to find peace and serenity in wells and fields around Najafgarh Road. I felt as if I am re-enacting his life all these years, trying to draw solace from a handful of stars shining above my house, while being surrounded by smog and polluted water.

In a way, his life is a perfect script for attaining lessons and achieving success. He remained in close contact with some of the most influential people of India and outside. Though, he is modest about his dealings and relations with them and has limited his autobiography to the close family and common people, he forged a real bond with, it is no doubt easy to understand after reading this book that Fate did line up great opportunities for him and he lapped them up at the right moment.

His stint with CARE threw him in close proximity with people, his groundwork in Bangalore, Dalhousie and Mussoorie, in a way paved the life he would live. Though, he did fall in love twice, his Destiny ensured that he would eke out a solitary life and continuously produce gems from his pen, forging bonds with millions and yet remain a recluse, happily surrounding himself with his adopted family and nature.

Life is strange and not at all fair, but in the end, none of us is going to come out of it alive. So why not count the blessings and endure sufferings with grace, seems to be his mantra.

And as I lay this book back on my shelf, I know something has stirred inside me too. Lone Fox Dancing has reaffirmed my belief in my instincts to go on my destined path, without protest or regret. After all, every rainbow has the same seven colors but each one of us looks at it from a different angle and thinks his/her favorite hue shines the brightest!

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