Art & Culture

Why writing by hand matters, asks Ruskin Bond

May 20, 2018: The kind of intimacy experienced while writing by hand is amiss in a typewriter or a laptop, says celebrated author Ruskin Bond, who also believes that the good-old style is mentally satisfying.

One of India’s most-loved and revered authors, Bond, who turned 84 yesterday, still churning out thousands of words even before breakfast every day. In a new book “Stumbling Through Life”, the writer also reveals why he is enamoured by the ballpoint pen instead of a fountain pen, which found favour with legends such as Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath Tagore and Munshi Premchand.

Bond says over the many, many years he has done most of his writing by hand and only occasionally resorted to a typewriter. He recalls that as a boy he even took lessons for shorthand and typing but soon these forms of writing turned obsolete. “My great-grandson’s laptop looks as though it may also be obsolete very shortly,” says the author, who lives in the hills of Landour, near Mussoorie.

Even now the octogenarian’s writing hand is legible and he can put down a thousand words before breakfast without any difficulty, crediting it to his consistent practice of wielding a pen or pencil all these years.

“There is something about putting pen to paper that is physically as well as mentally satisfying. There is a certain sensuous intimacy about this connection, an intimacy that is absent from any form of writing. “Maybe it’s the texture and touch of the paper, the flow of ink, the movement of the pen, the connection of all three with the human hand and the hand’s connection with the mind of the writer.

“It all amounts to the power of the pen,” says Bond, whose award-winning debut “The Room On The Roof” was published 60 years ago. But writing by hand does not mean that Bond, fondly called ‘Rusty’ by his fans, would use any pen or pencil that comes handy. He says people often gift him fountain pens, unaware that for him they are a “formidable form of technology”, designed with the express purpose of “tormenting” him.

“Being one of the most clumsiest humans on earth, I am unable to full or refill or empty a fountain pen of its ink without getting the said ink, black, blue or blue-black, all over my hands or on to my coat-sleeves or shirt front. I will then soil a good handkerchief trying to wipe myself clean,” confesses the octogenarian. On one occasion, unable to locate a handkerchief, he reached out for the nearest piece of cloth, only to realise (too late) that it was a lady’s dupatta.

“That’s one way of how to lose friends and fail to influence people,” he quips. And that is why it is the good old ballpoint which would be the pen for him. “It doesn’t make a mess and it can be thrown away when its usefulness is over. There is no bottle of ink waiting to be tipped over on to my writing pad,” he says. “Stumbling Through Life”, by Rupa Publications, is an anthology of Bond’s essays and writings, including some unpublished ones, which give an insight into the his remarkable journey as a writer. (DD News)

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