Mrs. Sudha Murthy needs no introduction.
She launched her latest book “The Serpent’s Revenge – Unusual Tales from the Mahabharata” today in Mumbai amidst a very excited and enthusiastic bunch of children making sure to write every child’s name on the book while signing it. She was in conversation with RJ Anita from Radio One.
Mrs Murthy started the conversation by emphasizing the importance of reading amongst young children. She says “If you read more, you will learn more, you will discover new aspects, you will develop a viewpoint and you will tell unusual or your own interpretation of the tale”.
She has been an avid reader from a very young age and she reads about 100-150 pages every single day. She reads a variety of books from Shashi Tharoor, accomplished UK authors to lighter reads by Twinkle Khanna. Over the years she has become so addicted to reading that she feels she may end up reading the newspaper 3 times if she doesn’t have any books to read!
She is particularly fond of the Indian scriptures and mythology. However they are quite complex for young children. Most of the good books are thick, there is a lot of narration and large part of it is about praising the Gods which small children find difficult to follow. They lose interest beyond a point. Her own children, when small, could not go beyond the first 10 pages. So it is her wish to convey these stories in simple language & with age appropriate narration so as to catch the attention of the young readers.
And she tries to write unusual stories. In today’s time of television and YouTube, most children know of Krishna as a “naughty” boy who is always up to some mischief. One incidence she shares is when she visited her granddaughters in London.
The kid’s version of the story was – Krishna is a very naughty boy. Once he saw some aunties in the swimming pool. So he took out the dresses of all the aunties from the locker and hid them. When the aunties were done with their swim, they came out and took a shower. When they went to their locker to take out their dress all the dresses were missing? The aunties knew who was up to mischief, so they all came to Krishna’s house and complained to his mother. When Krishna was summoned, he justified by saying that the aunties complain all the time about him opening their refrigerator and eating their cheese. That is why he hid all their clothes, so as to teach them a lesson!
This is the modern version of Krishna which our television and cartoons have taught our young kids. But these is much more to Krishna that his naughtiness. Krishna was a great strategist, he was the finest leader. Those characteristics have been lost somewhere. It’s imperative that our kids know that as well so that they don’t end up aping only the naughty aspects of Krishna. And she jokes that more than her grandkids, her daughter needs to know about it first!
Mrs. Murthy is very witty and sharp. She can engage the youngest of young audience. Before writing a book, she deeply thinks about the important aspects that would encourage the young readers to NOT put the book down. Is it the structure of the book, the vocabulary, the technique of writing or the language? She confesses that she becomes an 8-9 year old when writing the story so that the young reader can relate to the plot and gain interest in her books.
Her intent is to bring out those unusual Indian mythological stories that are not found in normal books on Mahabharata. In a simple and engaging language. Children should not need a dictionary to read her books. This book is her first in the series. It will be followed by a trilogy, each releasing on the 14th Nov, Children’s Day for the next 3 years.
Mrs Murthy ends the conversation with important advice for young mothers. Her first advice is “Don’t focus on your children all the time. Don’t pester your child to excel at everything aka swimming, piano, elocution, cricket, art etc. Let them ponder, let them think, give them free time, let them blossom at their own pace. Lead by example, if you want them to read, switch off your TV or phone and sit down to read yourself. Kids learn much more by example than sermon”
Her second advice is “Don’t buy everything your child asks for. Children loose the pleasure of having it. If they ask for books, yes definitely. But justify other purchases.”
Mrs Sudha Murthy is the Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, member of public health care initiatives at the Gates Foundation, an acclaimed philanthropist and celebrated storyteller full of wit and energy. Padmashree Mrs. Sudha Murthy catches our attention in every way.
To read the book review of “The Serpent’s Revenge – Unusual Tales from the Mahabharata” and why she belives in telling stories to children click here
This article was first published here