Non-Fiction Reads: Lone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond


As I walked home last night

I saw a lone fox dancing

In the cold moonlight.

I stood and watched. Then

Took the low road, knowing

The night was his by right.

Sometimes, when words ring true,

I’m like a lone fox dancing

In the morning dew.

From Lone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond

I am typing these words minutes after finishing Ruskin Bond’s charming autobiography Lone Fox Dancing (Speaking Tiger, 2017). 

Much of Bond’s life stories are scattered in heavy showers of prose across his fictional work, written largely for children. Bond is clearly aware of the repetition and doesn’t make Lone Fox Dancing a heavy, chronological account. 

Bond‘s works have never been about ambition and scale, but about telling it straight from the heart. Lone Fox Dancing radiates sunlit warmth in many such moments.  

A few months old at Kasauli, 1934

Eventful childhood

Born in Kasauli, joyful early years, experiencing loss, living with a stepfather, boarding school, making and losing friends, elusive leopards, adolescence coinciding with India’s violent partition and independence, writing ambitions, unhappy years in England, love, frustration, nature, peace…elements that make for an eventful page-turner. 

The first two decades of Bond’s life are retold with vivid imagery, of a difficult childhood, struggling youth, and how life was never a bed of roses.

Selective and engrossing

This is not a – tell it all. Several incidents have been omitted to avoid embarrassing and hurting people – Bond confides in the prologue.  

The writer chooses few, but turbulent, lively moments to embroider this telling. 

Two tales stand out. 

The most engrossing is Bond’s love for a 16-year-old girl, a friend’s sister, and how the one-sided quest leaves him devastated and heartbroken. How Bond got over the disappointment is an unexpected, hilarious titbit. 

The other riveting portion is of Bond’s house roof going airborne, leading to snow and rain seeping in, threatening to plunge Bond and his family into utter chaos.     

Bond with his adopted family 

Photographs down memory lane 

The 50-odd centerspread photographs are a treasure house, most of them black & white clicks sparkling with rich detail – made me think of how the modern ease in clicking photographs has robbed us of valuing defining moments.   

Bond’s early years in Jamnagar, and clicks of his parents and grumpy grandmother, at his father’s RAF room in Delhi, with school friends, make for evocative viewing. 

My favourite is of a 16-year-old Bond with the Bishop Cotton’s football team, 1950, featuring two Sikh brothers, and one German, Irani, Nepalese, Tibetian, Austrian and English player each. It’s like a slice of the globe represented in that frame. 

Other gems feature Bond’s childhood trekking friends, swimming in the Ganga, dressed in kurta-pajama, his beloved pet cat Suzie listening to the radio, and picnic clicks, bookended with some heartwarming images with his adopted family. 

The one with Bond’s window view speaks of a serene writing atmosphere like few photographs do.   

Happy times at his father’s RAF home, Delhi

Classic Ruskin Bond 

Bond is not aiming to impress, astonish, or showcase an extraordinary life. He admits to attaining financial freedom eventually at age 68, the perks and troubles of gaining fame, and why having a family that cares is bliss and peace for him in old age. 

Lone Fox Dancing is not among the greatest autobiographies ever written. It is a sedate, beautiful, gentle reminder to all those who walk their road or paddle their own canoe, as Bond puts it.

The immense joys of living as one wishes to, against all odds, is what dwells like a wild breeze between the words in Lone Fox Dancing

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

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