There is a lot to discover about India. Pika Nani’s realistic fiction in Little Indians helps unravel some of its mysteries

Which is the only State that has motorcycle taxis? Which is the third most spoken language in India? In which state were dinosaurs said to have roamed 65 million years ago? Which state is known as the Rice Bowl of India? Which state has the highest international cricket stadium? The answers: Goa; Telugu; Gujarat; Andhra Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.

If such trivia intrigued you, if it revealed a little more about your country, then to know more, pick up Little Indians, a Tulika Books publication, written by Deepika Murthy, under the pen name Pika Nani. “My pet name is Deepika Rani. As a child I used to mispronounce it as Pika Nani. I had forgotten about it, but I remembered it when I decided to write this book,” says Deepika.

At the launch of Little Indians at Atta Galatta on August 15, Pika Nani conducted a quiz about India. Even as the adults tried to recall the correct answers, the response from the children was instantaneous. The quiz was followed by a reading of excerpts from the book by the author.

Little Indians will take you on a journey through 15 states of India. The stories, marked by adventure and unpredictable endings, are about children who stay in different parts of India. The book also comes with nuggets of interesting facts. “It is realistic fiction,” says Deepika. “I read out the stories to my 86-year-old naani and my six-year-old daughter, and they both loved it.” It took Deepika three-and-a-half years to get the book together, “from the start till the day it was published,” she adds.

As a young girl, Deepika always wanted to be a writer, but she went on to become a HR professional. “When my daughter was born, I decided to take a break and since I always wanted to be a writer, I thought why not give writing a shot.” Deepika admits it was at first difficult to think of an original idea. “The inspiration for the first story The Apple Ganesha came from a real incident of an apple with a trunk that was discovered by my parents at their Mumbai home,” says Deepika.

As she wrote the book, more stories emerged. Later, a fact page was included. “Cross-checking facts took us eight months,” says Deepika, who did a lot of research for the book.

The initial stories also emerged from her travels to interesting parts of India, including some relatively unknown places. “When I saw the beautiful marble rocks of Bhedaghat in Madhya Pradesh with a stream flowing between them, I realised there are so many wonderful places to visit in India. Also, we don’t introduce such places to our children. We learn more about places abroad, than about such interesting places in our country,” Deepika said tellingly at the launch.

The sketches in Little Indians has been designed by Shreya Mehta. The book, meant for children above age 10, is priced at Rs. 200 and is available in English.