Children today need people who can not only tell them stories, but also communicate, Sudha Murty tells Catherine Rhea Roy

Sudha Murty is a happy grandmother who gushes about her infant grandchild and takes pride in the bag her daughter designed for her. In an age where family bonds are crumbling under the pressures of Bluetooth and touch screens, she holds steadfast to the gift she inherited partly from life and partly from her grandmother.

“My stories come from life and personal experiences,” says Sudha. “Life has given me a large canvas and a wide spectrum of opportunities and in that respect I have been very lucky. And my story-telling comes from my childhood with my grandmother, who was an excellent storyteller,” says Sudha.

She grew up in an era where the only entertainment was through stories. “My grandfather was a teacher and he used to tell a lot of stories as well, and although I always wanted to write children’s books, it is only in the last five years that I started working on it.”

Sudha was at Landmark for the launch of her third children's book “Grandma's Bag Of Stories Or Some Such”, and when I ask her about writing for children, in an almost pedantic fashion, she rattles off in bullet points,

“Language has to be simple, children should not need a dictionary to understand what you are trying to say. They should also be able to relate to the story and it needs to have a moral but need not be a sermon. It should also be interesting, funny, witty,” she continues.

While some of these stories Sudha has picked up from her childhood and adapted to suit the times, she has also created some from her own experiences and has spun some around important themes such as environment and values.

“Children are very receptive at their age and a lot of time needs to be spent with them. They can be encouraged to read epics in the abridged form but try and avoid topics like sati and the caste system.”

With sufficient writing experience that spans from travelogues to adult fiction, Sudha says, “Writing for adults is far simpler than writing for children. With children, one has to sugar-coat and cushion the blow of facts, whereas with adults it is much simpler where you are just putting your thoughts, as it is, out there.”

Sudha says that her mind has been compartmentalised to accommodate everything that she does and it is because of this that she is able to think in English as well as Kannada depending on the language she writes in. “I switch as and when required because when you think in one language and try to put it down in another, the chances are that the translation is not going to be exactly as you see it in your head.”

There is a severe lack of literature for children and a serious decline in reading as a habit; Sudha knows why. “There is just too much to distract children these days and parents are too busy to take notice. We cannot blame any party because the situation is such. Even the rising trend of nuclear families…children need to be allowed to connect with family members who can not only tell them stories, but communicate with them.”

Writing for children is tricky and one needs to be full of surprise to impress the impressionable age, but three books down and obviously another in the pipeline, Sudha knows and shares what she is doing,

“You need to take care of language, and also the story line. Stories cannot get repetitive and there has to be a trick or a twist in the end. Names of the characters are important and the child should be able to imagine and believe the world you are trying to create,” she explains.

As soon as she was done with her book, Sudha made sure that she handed it over to a child to give her feedback.

“The reactions of a child are always the most genuine and unbiased. In fact the child I handed over the draft to gave me marks for my stories,” she laughs.

Sudha is now working on her next book, which will be released by the end of this year, “The book is going to be about my experience with the Infosys Foundation and all the people I have met over the years. That's all I have for now, even the title has not been finalised.”