Ruskin Bond: The Golden Years

I first ‘discovered’ Mr Bond’s writing sometime in the 1980s, with The Room on the Roof, his very first book (which he wrote in the 1950s). I must have been 10 or 11 years old at the time and found that tale – of Rusty, a teenaged Anglo-Indian boy living in Dehradun – utterly fascinating. With his words, Mr Bond created a magical world full of interesting characters, and Rusty’s adventures inspired some of my own. Shortly thereafter, I persuaded my parents to buy the other five or six books in the Rusty series and thoroughly enjoyed reading every one of those. At that time, of course, I did not know or understand that Rusty and his exploits were loosely based on Mr Bond himself, and his own life in Dehradun. But, honestly, at that time I only cared about Rusty – for me, he was the hero and I never thought about the books’ author.

As I grew older, I moved on to other books written by other authors, though Rusty and his adventures remained a part of my childhood memories. Little did I know, back then, that I would only rediscover Mr Bond about 35 years later, when he would release his autobiography Lone Fox Dancing. I bought a copy when I chanced upon the book on Amazon, and absolutely loved it. Written in his endearingly honest, straightforward manner, Lone Fox Dancing tells the story of Mr Bond’s life, the early years, his school days in Shimla, the few years he spent in England, the time he spent in Dehradun and his life as a writer based in Landour, near Mussoorie, where he’s been based for the last few decades. Of the two dozen or more memoirs I’ve read in the last five or six years, Lone Fox is definitely one of the best. And the most memorable.

Perhaps because I’d enjoyed reading his autobiography so much, when I saw Mr Bond’s latest book, The Golden Years, listed on the HarperCollins India website, I immediately wrote to them with a request for a copy, with the very convenient excuse of wanting to write about the book for this website. Of course, Mr Bond doesn’t need me – or anyone else for that matter – to ‘review’ his books. He is far too accomplished a writer, I am in no way qualified to ‘review’ his books and this is most certainly NOT a book review. These are only some thoughts, which as a reader I’d like to share with other readers, that is all. 

So, The Golden Years. Mr Bond is now in his late-80s and has been writing for more than 70 years. He’s written and published more than a hundred books, including short story collections, novels, essays, memoirs and children’s books. It’s an impressive body of work. The Golden Years is, according to Mr Bond himself, ‘a book about growing old and liking it. It may be helpful to those entering their sixties, seventies and eighties [and] might also be of interest to young people who don’t believe they will ever grow old. They will, if they are lucky. So prepare for what is truly the best time of your life,’ he says.

Over 150 pages, Mr Bond reflects upon the times gone by – he talks about the joy that writing has given to him and the fact that creativity doesn’t need to stop at the age of 60, about learning to live with trouble, and the wisdom and maturity that comes with age. For those who have been successful in their lives, he talks about the importance of gratitude, the need to be grateful for one’s success and the importance of helping those who might not be in the same position of privilege. In a similar vein, Mr Bond also talks about the essential qualities a man needs to have in order to live a full, rich life. Kindness, for one, which he illustrates by telling us about a Mr Bromley, who loaned him the money he needed to buy his first portable typewriter. Also, being helpful and trying to do the right thing. But don’t get me wrong – there is no sermonising here. Mr Bond writes with grace and kindness – it’s like sitting with a favourite uncle and listening to him talk about life. An uncle who reminds you to take life as it comes – one day at a time if need be – and enjoy yourself along the way, perhaps even spoil yourself a bit once in a while, because otherwise what’s the point?

On a different note, Mr Bond also reminisces about the past and seems to miss, to some extent, the days gone by and expresses mild discontent at how some things seem to be shaping up in more modern times. Things like too much traffic, too many cars on the roads, crowds of tourists descending upon the hills and leaving heaps of plastic waste and other garbage in their wake, the loss of peace and quiet. He writes about other elements of life: Dealing with loneliness, the need for solitude, the joy of falling in love and the little pleasures of life, like an afternoon siesta, the simple act of going for a walk, or even indulging in little treats – a lemon tart, piping hot jalebis, some chocolate, fish and chips, a bit of guava cheese… minor indulgences, no doubt, but it’s the way Mr Bond writes about these that makes them special.

I hope I’ve been able to convey the bigger picture here. The book isn’t just about jam tarts and morning walks and traffic jams in Mussoorie. It’s a collection of little vignettes from Mr Bond’s own life, a mix of memories, experiences, life lessons (how to boil an egg, how to make a mango chutney bun, avoiding quarrelsome people…) and not just surviving but actually thriving in old age. The resolute will to go on, as it were. ‘There isn’t a lot of time left, but that doesn’t matter. I take one day at a time, and once again I clear the decks (or rather my desk), take up a new pad and a new pen, and sing out: I’m on my way!’ he says.

I quite enjoyed reading The Golden Years, a quiet, contemplative piece of work that informs, entertains and provokes thought. More importantly, perhaps, it inspires you to continually strive to do your best work even as the years roll by. Mr Bond continues to fight the good fight no matter what, and with this book he inspires us to do the same.

Sameer Kumar

Incidentally, today – 19th May 2023 – is Ruskin Bond’s 89th birthday. BooksFirst wishes Mr Bond a very happy birthday, and a long, happy and healthy life!

The Golden Years
HarperCollins India
Hardcover / Kindle
Number of pages:
168 / 144
Rs 309 / Rs 223
Available on:

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