Ruskin Bond was born in India in 1934 and has lived in India for most of his life. His first novel the "Room on the Roof" was written when he was seventeen and he was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957 - the year I was born. The novel is nearly 60 years old but has lost none of its charm or its relevance. Since then he has produced a large number of children books, essays, short stories and novellas.
I am writing about him specially because he has celebrity status in India - a bit like a Bollywood star only better, because he can write eloquently not just recite lines, he can speak engagingly and not just about himself, and he has introduced a whole generation of Indians to reading.
The Room on the Roof is all about Rusty a 16 year old Anglo Indian boy who is orphaned. He hates living with his strict English guardian so he runs away - into the Bazaar of Dehra Dun and meets strangers, Indian customs and foods there which he describes sensitively and evocatively.
He ends up living in the room in the roof in the home of an Indian boy he befriends called Kishen.
Santha Rama Rau of The New York Times commented "Like an Indian bazaar itself, the book is filled with the smells, sights, sounds, confusion and subtle organisation of ordinary Indian life".
He was at the literature festival and his sessions were packed and everything he said was praised and applauded.
My room was not on the roof but in a wing of the wonderful Arya Niwas - a haveli which has been turned into a hotel to cater for many visitors. I thought about Rusty and how he felt in his little room in the roof. I was in my little room and it felt heavenly, it made me think of my sister Niki who had shared the festival with me a few years back, it made me want to write all day long and it offered the balm to tired minds at night. The simplicity and organisation of India life is a mixture of old and new. The almari cupboard- in Greek armari - to place your clothes but now with the necessary safe to keep your possessions. A book shelf in case you were travelling with your favourite books. The bar heater with its old fashioned way of operating but sitting proudly on top a TV with remote control. The bed with an indian print block bedspread and the old fashioned stitched quilt underneath for warmth. A desk at which to write your thoughts down before they disappear but also a socket to take your computer cables. The bathroom complete with bucket and cup to have a so called Indian bath but also a bathtub which is western as is the toilet. The chappals under the sink just in case you forgot yours.
The price too small to reflect the joy and comfort this place offered me - the food - always vegetarian and simple but so very tasty, again a mix of old and new- heartening warm porridge, dhal and rice, delicious aubergines and pasta for those who could not take the spice.
Room to live, room to ruminate, room to grow.