Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Muskaan and Kitaab hosted an interactive session with Sudha Murty curated specially for children. An engineer-turned-writer, she has written over 39 books. Adding one more to her oeuvre this year, she has now released How The Earth Got Its Beauty. From learning the Kannada dictionary by heart to translating her works to English, she has always believed in saying ‘no’ to any limitations. Her biggest strength and weakness for her remains to be her usage of simple English, which has broken barriers for children who are reading English as a second language.
Murty talked about her writing journey from non-fiction to children’s literature with her editor, Shrutkeerti Khurana. Writing non-fiction was easy for her as she met people who inspired her to write about the real world. The real world felt easy compared to the imaginative world of fiction. She thinks that “depending on your intelligence causes limitation to your imagination”. However, she started her journey with fiction when she wrote her first travelogue in 1979. It was about a girl from a small world exploring the wonders of America, backpacking with little money. In 2005, after publishing her first book for children How I Taught My Grandmother To Read, she realised how writing for children is a joyful activity and as an author, her “impact is much more when one writes for children”.
Her new book How The Earth Got Its Beauty was a result of her realisation during the pandemic, the extent of the abuse that human beings have inflicted on nature for money. The times where one found dolphins in the Ganges and deer on busy roads are long gone. Humans have been greedy in their pursuits and have infiltrated the natural habitat of other living beings. Her new book has many layers, which would even make adults pause and think about the natural world. She recollected her childhood memories of full moons in the context of the little episode of her new book where Devi gives her three sisters a special task to complete between two full-moon nights, as a significant symbol of happiness. She reminisced how on a cold, quiet and cosy night the insects sang to each other or with a gentle wind the leaves rustled conveying their messages to the wind.
As a child living with grandparents she was exposed to plenty of literary pilgrimages. Her grandfather took her to libraries and taught her to be gentle and careful with books. She firmly believes that the lives of children were easy as they had their grandparents around who taught them valuable life lessons. Her writings for children aim to do that. As a grandparent, she herself found inspiration to write for children because it lets her think like one. For her, children are curious, unbiased, open-minded and adventurous and she wants to instill important knowledge in them through her books by making them light and enjoyable.
In the most interactive segment, the children eagerly asked questions to their beloved author. On being asked about how since earlier generations the rate of acceptability towards failure has been decreasing, she denounced pressuring children and mentioned, “Academic excellence is not the only excellence in life.” For her, the need for parents to define a child through his achievements is the greatest pressure which is why the generation is more scared of failure.
She acknowledged how the new world technology is attractive, a joy for the eyes and the ill effects of it on mental as well as physical health. She said, “Reading makes our imagination fertile. It’s a joy to the mind.”
Ending the conversation on a positive and warm note, she inspired the children to not be limited to just one profession and work for their heart’s desire.