Deepika is currently powering through 'Sivagamiyin Sabatham' that is eagerly awaited by listeners.

Deepika Arun in a black cotton saree smiling
Features Books Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 12:23

Sometime in 2019, Deepika Arun, now 33, wondered what an audio book can possibly give that a book does not. When her brother recommended that she listen to Stephen Fry’s narration of Harry Potter, Deepika was reluctant. “I, for one, am a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I must have read every book at least 10 times and so, I was very hesitant to even try the audio version of it,” she tells TNM.

But, in a dramatic turn of events, she soon became addicted to audio books. “I was mind-blown. It became an addiction, and I could not go a day without listening to it. In that sense, I’d say this was the nudge for me to look for Tamil audio books and think about them seriously,” Deepika says. Deepika now runs Kadhai Osai, a storytelling platform on which she regularly shares narrations of Tamil stories written by authors like Kalki, La Sa Ramamritham, among others.

Deepika who quit an IT job to teach children, started a one-of-a-kind activity centre in 2016 called Jhoola in Chennai. Here, children were encouraged to pick up essential life skills, with reading holding a top spot. “I strongly believe that the habit of reading for pleasure should be inculcated in children very young. So at Jhoola, children were encouraged to pick up books of their liking and I would often read to them as well,” Deepika adds. While Deepika had to permanently close Jhoola this June due to COVID-19 and the lockdown, she says that her love for reading comes from her parents. "My mother encouraged reading and my father Varadharajan is a writer who wrote for Tamil magazines like Kalki and Kalaimagal," says Deepika who would always read Tamil and English books in parallel.  

The kadhai of Kadhai Osai

Deepika, who was working along with her brother in an entrepreneurial digital marketing venture, took a break in 2019 when the company merged with a bigger organisation. It was around this time that she came up with the idea to start on this new venture.

She recalls a vivid memory from a session with a group of friends that sealed the deal for her. “We have this community called Streedom where a group of my friends come together to discuss everything from literature from films. We started it as a way to defy stereotypes that women always gathered together to gossip. During one such session I had asked my friends if they’ve heard of Tamil writer La Sa Ra,” she begins.

When she found out that they hadn’t, Deepika chose one of his most touching short stories called Paarkadal. “It took about half an hour for me to finish and when I did none of them spoke. I could hear some sniffing and a few wiping away tears. They were moved. It gave me the confidence to finally go ahead with the idea for the channel,” she says.

Paarkadal is a short story in the form of a letter written by a newly married Brahmin woman to her husband who, to her dismay, had to work during their first Deepavali together (thala Deepavali). From her daily observations in the house to sharing her perceptions of his family members to her intimate thoughts on family, relationships and more, the story gives a peek into the mind of a chatty young woman who misses the company of her husband.

Deepika began by reading works of authors who are nationalised and available on the open forum.

Interestingly, Deepika has a small audio recording setup at home where she mostly records stories in one go to maintain the modulation and voice quality and until just a couple of months ago, she did the editing herself. “I recently got on board Storytel’s venture into Tamil and I’m now their consultant and publisher for Tamil audio books. A few of my friends have been graciously helping me with edits now that I’m a little pressed for time,” she explains.

“Every recording is an experience and the process is enjoyable for me. When I listen to feedback where people who have not read Tamil are able to enjoy the author’s version, in his own words, it gives me immense joy,” she asserts and adds, “It wouldn’t be right for me to take credit for the listener’s experiences. It is the author’s brilliance that flows through me.”

Deepika is currently powering through Sivagamiyin Sabatham that is eagerly awaited by listeners. “If I skip the schedule, I’d immediately be flooded with messages asking for it,” she chuckles. While the platform itself is free and open to all, Deepika says that strangers have been kind enough to make contributions on her crowdfunding link. “Especially now during COVID, it is very encouraging to see people support the venture. But most of all, when I get comments from listeners saying their grandmothers who can’t read anymore enjoy listening to my narrations, it moves me beyond anything else,” she finishes. 

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