Sudha Murthy’s new children’s book The Serpent’s Revenge chronicles unusual tales from the Mahabharata. “There are thousands of stories in the epics,” the author and Chairperson of Infosys Foundation said at an event at Crosswords yesterday. “But most of them are difficult to read. I wanted to write a book which has easy words, is simple, but still has really good stories,” she said.
Murthy said she realised that the environment children live in nowadays makes it difficult for them to understand the context of stories in the epics, and that’s why she wanted to tell these stories in an easier way
The inspiration behind The Serpent’s Revenge
The inspiration for her book came from her two granddaughters who live in London. They recounted a very funny tale of Krishna to her. In their version of the tale, Krishna goes to a local swimming pool where he meets ‘aunties’ who find him naughty. In the real story, Krishna goes to the Yamuna River where he steals the the clothes of gopis. Murthy said that she realised that the environment children live in nowadays makes it difficult for them to understand the context of stories in the epics, and that’s why she wanted to tell these stories in an easier way.
What it is like writing for children:
“I try to become their age,” Murthy said. “The world is so different through their eyes.”
She said it is hard but she tries as much as she can to come to their level, to feel what excites them and what kind of questions they may have.
“If you tell children morals directly, they don’t like it. But you can hide meanings in stories.”
Murthy started reading at a young age:
“I came from a village where there was no electricity and the only entertainment was reading,” she said.
She had read epics like the Mahabharata many times over, when she was just a little girl. Her grandfather was a school teacher, so she read a lot on history.
“I knew the history of India at a young age, because I was told its history in the form of a story,” she said, while extolling the benefits of storytelling.
Her favourite books
“A writer absorbs everything,” she says. She loves reading and first started reading in Kannada, a fact that she is very proud of.
“I prefer UK writers to American writers.”
It is on her morning walks that she thinks about her characters and her writing. A novel takes her three years to complete. After work, she reads at least 100-150 pages every day
“Books showed me how to hold a reader intact. For every book that I can’t put down, I wonder what makes me not want to put it down it. Is it the language, vocabulary, story, technique? I learn from different authors.”
Her writing technique:
When asked about her writing technique, she said, “It is not computers! If it was, I could have told you. But it is difficult to say.”
She went on to say that if anyone wants to be a writer, they should read a lot. They should also develop empathy and sensitivity. When someone is crying, for example, they should try and understand why. “You can develop a technique only over a period of time,” she says. “And the advantage is that you can become that character.”
“But you should also know how to get out of the character,” she warns. “You cannot live in the same character forever, because you have to create something else next time.”
A day in her life
She says that her number one priority is her job as the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation. “Because of my work there, I can write better,” she says.
It is on her morning walks that she thinks about her characters and her writing. A novel takes her three years to complete. After work, she reads at least 100-150 pages every day.
“A reader should never know which thread is reality and which is imagination,” she says.
“I write for my joy. Writing is my expression. I take time for different genres, and I compartmentalise my day. If I am writing non-fiction, I can write three or four stories a day. Fiction takes time. I don’t write to become famous or sell x number of copies,” she told SheThePeople.TV
She laughingly told the audience that when she asks people why they buy her books, a common answer she receives is that people want to see what Narayana Murthy’s wife has written! But then there are also lots of people who love her books and want to read more.