Ruskin Bond on Tom Alter: ‘Athletic, agile and full of energy’

The writer and the actor shared a long association, fuelled by their love for Mussoorie, movies and books.

I first met Tom Alter sometime in the late ’70s when he had already joined the Hindi film industry. He was younger than I by about 18 years. I met him late in life because when he was growing up in Dehradun, I was trying to eke out a living first in England and then in Delhi.

I was instantly struck by his varied interests. He was a cricketer, a writer, a teacher, an actor, and despite his American background, spoke impeccable Hindi and Urdu. Before moving to Mussoorie, both of us had spent our formative years in Dehradun. Also, both of us felt so much at home in India that we returned to it after living abroad.

What impressed me most about Tom was his loyalty to his friends. He went out of his way to help them. He even obliged absolute strangers with whatever he could do for them. I remember how distressed he once was when he learnt that one of his close friends had accidentally found himself on the wrong side of the law. Tom spared no effort to help him disentangle from a complicated situation.

Another of Tom’s sterling qualities was his focus on fitness. Whenever he visited Mussoorie, I often saw him jogging around the hills. He could easily cover 10 kilometers in one go. He told me that he had participated in marathons when he was young. He didn’t smoke, drink or indulge in any vices.Till the very end of his life, he remained athletic, agile and full of energy.

Memories of Mussoorie

As an actor, Tom was extremely talented. What surprised me was that he didn’t get as many meaty roles as his skills warranted. It was in theatre that he did justice to his enormous passion for different roles. Once, he played the role of a shikari in a film based on my story, The Last Tiger. The film remains unreleased till date.

Tom told me that the tame tiger, which was taken from the Bombay zoo for the film, had given the crew a hard time. It would slip away to the zoo for lunch unnoticed. The director and its team had a tough time cajoling the tiger out of the zoo to come to the shoot.

A few months back, Tom was playing me in a short film based on one of my stories, The Black Cat. To understand my character better, he called me a couple of times over the phone. He even requested me to tell him the names of my favourite Nelson Eddy songs. He wanted to include one of them in the film. However, it was dropped later.

Throughout our long association, I played the role of a well-meaning older friend. He was always on the move and visited Mussoorie twice or thrice a year. He was quite sentimental about old things and our cultural heritage. In 2010, he was anguished when the local municipality demolished the British-era clock tower in Mussoorie that dated back to the 1930s. To protest, he undertook a sit-in and observed a maun vrat for 12 hours. Though the authorities are now rebuilding the clock tower, I doubt if he would have liked its architectural style.

Apart from writing on cricket, he also wrote three books. When he visited me, we discussed films, books and the sweeping changes taking place in Mussoorie. He would often ask me questions about our publishing industry. To commemorate the 60th year of my first novel, The Room on the Roof, he wrote an introduction for it. Having spent his early years in Dehradun, he could identify a lot with the protagonist and milieu of the story. Tom was very fond of nature and he was appointed as an ambassador of the Corbett National Park.

Tom had so much more to offer us. With his passing away, I have lost a very special friend, the one in whose heart lay that special Indian sentiment of being kind to others.

(As told to Aditya Sharma.)

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

When house hunting is as easy as shopping for groceries

The supermarket experience comes to a sector where you least expected it.

The woes of a house hunter in India are many. The dreary process starts with circling classifieds in newspapers and collecting shiny brochures. You flip through the proposed and ready designs that launch a hundred daydreams on the spot. So far so good. But, every house hunter would attest to the soul-crushing experience of checking out a disappointing property.

The kitchen of a 2BHK is carved from the corner of the hall, the 3BHK is a converted 2BHK, the building looks much older than in the pictures…. after months of reading the fine line, and between the lines, you feel like all the diagrams and highlights seem to blur into each other.

After much mental stress, if you do manage to zero in on a decent property, there’s a whole new world of knowledge to be navigated - home loans to be sifted through, taxes to be sorted and a finance degree to be earned for understanding it all.

Do you wish a real estate platform would address all your woes? Like a supermarket, where your every need (and want) is catered to? Imagine all your property choices nicely lined up and arranged with neat labels and offers. Imagine being able to compare all your choices side by side. Imagine viewing verfied listings and knowing what you see is what you get. Imagine having other buyers and experts guiding you along every step while you make one of the most important investments in your life. Imagine...

MagicBricks has made every Indian house hunters’ daydream of a simplified real estate supermarket a reality. Now you have more than a pile of brochures at your disposal as the online real estate marketplace brings you lakhs of choices to your fingertips. Instead of bookmarking pages, you can narrow down your choices by area, budget, house type etc. Just so you aren’t hit by FOMO, you can always add a suburb you’ve been eyeing or an extra bedroom to your filter. But there’s more to a house than just floor space. On MagicBricks, you can check for good schools in the vicinity, a park for evening walks or at least an assured easier commute. Save time and energy by vetting properties based on the specs, pictures and floor plans uploaded and have all your niggling concerns addressed on the users’ forum.

Shortlisted a property? Great! No need to descend down another spiral of anxiety. Get help from reliable experts on MagicBricks on matters of legalities, home loans, investment, property worth etc. You can even avail their astrology and Vastu services to ensure an auspicious start to life in your new home or office. With its entire gamut of offerings, MagicBricks has indeed brought the supermarket experience to real estate in India, as this fun video shows below.


Get started with a simplified experience of buying, renting and selling property on MagicBricks here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MagicBricks and not by the Scroll editorial team.