Penguin Annual Lecture 2015

Penguin Random House hosted its ninth Penguin Annual Lecture at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre on 14th December, 2015. The Penguin Annual Lecture series features some of the world’s most respected leaders, thinkers and writers, and builds on Penguin India’s commitment to bring the finest minds in the world in direct contact with Indian audiences. Over the years it has established itself as one of the most prestigious events on the literary calendar.

Ruskin Bond

delivered the lecture on

The Joy of Writing.


On delivering the Penguin Annual Lecture for 2015, Ruskin Bond said:

I have had a long innings; sixty-five years of joyful writing, more than twenty of them in the company of Penguins and Puffins. I write about things that are dear to me: people, places, mountains, forests – and I open my words to the world. There is a lot of talk about on a winter’s evening.

On Ruskin Bond delivering the lecture, Hemali Sodhi the publisher of Puffin Books India stated that it was the first lecture of its kind and a special one. Ruskin’s first book ‘The Room of the Roof’ was published when he was seventeen years old and 2016 marks its 60th anniversary.

Ruskin Bond has published well over 500 novellas, short stories, essays and poems. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for English Writing in 1993, the Padma Shri in 1999, and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.

It all started in Delhi. My father went to fight the world war and I was left on my own. I would pace time with filling exercise books with list of books that I would read – it set me off on a habit of writing. Writing life was divided into periods of loveliness and periods of solitude. Loveliness is imposed on you while solitude is something you self-impose.

Writing was not fashionable in those days. I remember telling my mother, ‘Mum, I am going to be a writer.

and she said, ‘don’t be silly. Go join the army’.

Some of my earliest stories were based on dreams. Then during the school days, I was popular because I had the ability to write funny stories based on my memories on teachers, and not for any of my literary skills. But dreaming is good, not only for the writing life, but as also a therapy. Also, it is very vital to keep a journal. Although at that time it was just me writing down things that I did that day, however trivial they may seem. If it helped me in my writing, it will help in yours as well.

When asked why he didn’t stay back in England. There is little money to be made here in India publishing stories:

I was determined that I would freelance back in India. It was not easy. Nobody was publishing in the fiction genre. Even when I was in India, I managed to sell stories abroad in magazines and newspapers. The pay certainly was a lot more abroad. There was no literature fest or book launches. When I finally got published, I would wander around bookstores to find my book. I would often find it at the bottom of the shelf or under a pile of other books. I would take it and put it on top. But that is not the case anymore.

Publishing has come of age.
Indian writing has come of age.

Maybe I showed people that you do make a living by being a writer.

For a writer, a window is most important. I lived in Delhi for seven years. I found joy moving to Mussorie where windows opened to reveal trees. If you are living close to nature, there is always something to write about. And visitors are always welcome.

Ruskin Bond’s advise to young writers:

  • It is important to be a great reader. Read the classics.
  • Respect the language. Don’t be careless with grammar.
  • Develop your own tone of voice.
  • Work regularly.
  • Don’t get discouraged, never despair.
  • Enjoy your writing. That is where the joy comes from. If you don’t, then don’t be a writer.
  • Be patient. You will find a publisher for your work, a reward for your efforts.


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