How 'Boxer' Ruskin Bond Got Disqualified!

New Delhi
How 'Boxer' Ruskin Bond Got Disqualified!

Life wasn't all books for seasoned author Ruskin Bond during his youth as he donned several hats like being a football goalkeeper, a hockey player, an athlete, a debater as well as a boxer.

He, however, hated boxing. During boxing bouts at his boarding school Bishop Cotton's, where all games were compulsory, he often fouled on his opponent to get himself disqualified.

He was also in the school choir, but was told not to sing, because he had a terrible singing voice.

These anecdotes figure in the book Uncles, Aunts and Elephants: Tales from Your Favourite Storyteller, a selection of writings from one of India's best-loved authors.

"After the age of 15, I was at my best as a football goalkeeper, hockey player, athlete. I was also acting in school plays and taking part in debates. I wasn't much of a boxer - a sport I disliked - but I had learnt to use my head to good effect, and managed to get myself disqualified by butting the other fellow in the head or midriff," he recalls in a chapter titled Reading Was My Religion.

"As all games were compulsory, I had to overcome my fear of water and learn to swim a little. Mr Jones (his teacher) taught me to do the breast stroke, saying it was more suited to my temperament than the splash and dash stuff," he writes.

The only thing that he couldn't do was sing, and although he loved listening to great singers, from Enrico Caruso to Beniamino Gigli, he couldn't sing a note.

"Our music teacher, Mrs Knight, put me in the school choir because, she said, I looked like a choir boy, all pink and shining in a cassock and surplice, but she forbade me from actually singing. I was to open my mouth with the others, but on no account was I to allow any sound to issue from it," he says.

Sumptuously illustrated, Uncles, Aunts and Elephants: Tales from Your Favourite Storyteller, published by Puffin India, is a collection of poetry, prose and non-fiction bringing together some of Bond's best work in a single volume.

"Since my first Puffin Treasury came out, five years ago, there has been a steady flow of tales to tell. The desk near my window is overflowing with notebooks and manuscripts. My cat (Fat Cat) does her utmost to knock everything to the ground, but I am a patient soul and I do my best to restore order where confusion reigns," he says about this edition, in which there is a cat poem for Fat Cat too.

Bond says during his youth he and his father used to watch at least three movies a week and he developed a habit of making lists of all the films he saw, including the casts.

"Even today, I can rattle off the cast of almost any Hollywood or British production of the 1940s."

Recalling his life in Delhi and the changes that the national capital has seen over the years, Bond writes, "Change and prosperity have come to Delhi, but its citizens are paying a high price for the privilege of living in the capital. Too late to do anything about it now. Spread on, great octopus – your tentacles have yet to be fully extended."


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