A Tryst At Woodstock

The maiden Mussoorie Writers’ Festival was held in Woodstock, Mussoorie in April 2007. It lasted five days, from 24 to 28 April. Writers from different parts of the world came to attend, not to mention a sizeable number of Indian writers. I had by then met most of the writers hailing from that region and interviewed them. So, I was not exactly unknown. One of the main reasons for attending was to watch Ruskin Bond getting the Poet Laureate of Landour Award.

That day in the afternoon there was a poets meet at Woodstock where Ruskin Bond was to recite his poems. I got there half an hour before the recitation was to start and was sitting on a bench by the hillside when I saw to my great surprise Ruskin Bond turning a bend and coming towards me. At that point of time, there was no one else around. He was dressed in an informal sky-coloured tee-shirt, and carrying a few books. I got up from my seat. He immediately motioned me to sit down and gently sat by my side.

“How are you Mr. Banerjee”, he asked in his baritone.

“Sir, thank you very much”, I said. “I’ve with me copies of a few articles on you I did in the last few months. Could I possibly hand them over to you?”

“That’s very kind of you. Will you be attending the party tonight?”

“Yes Sir, I’m doing a report on the festival, and I’ll be there with some other freelancers.”

“Would you mind if I take these copies from you then?”

“Not at all, Sir. It’d be an honour to see you receiving the Poet Laureate Award.”

The banquet that evening thrown in honour of Ruskin was a huge affair. Apart from the presence of a galaxy of writers and publishers, there were a great many admirers from nearby towns as well as people like me from far-flung areas. There also abounded delicacies, piping hot, catering to myriad taste buds both at the starter stage and later the sumptuous main course. I was frankly awed by the grandeur and magnitude of the celebration that revolved round the beloved writer.

The party was well under way, when Ruskin’s achievements were read out. The hall instantly quieted down. Ruskin was sitting a few rows ahead of me. He was grace personified. Ruskin is always the centre of attention wherever he goes. But, you have to actually see to believe how, with great dignity, he maintains a certain detachment, and he’s so much at ease with the outside world.

Just after he was awarded the Laureateship, a regional TV host took me to him for a formal introduction: “Hello Ruskin, here’s Swapan from Serampore wanting to talk to you. You know him?” “Oh”, Ruskin said, “Banerjee is an old friend of mine!”

I gave him the articles and requested for an appointment the very next day which he kindly granted. The party continued till late into the night….

First published in The Statesman

1 thought on “A Tryst At Woodstock”

  1. Ruskin bond is one of the most eminent writers across the world. As a teenager myself, I have always been attracted to his works. His books contain an essence, particularly of old India and hill stations, which makes me nostalgic even though I have never lived in that era. It would be an honour to meet him someday.

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