The 9th edition of Bangalore Literature fest kicked off on Saturday at the Bangalore International Centre. Like many events this year, the Lit Fest too went virtual, with limited audience and moderators for panels, the speakers for which connected virtually. The two-day affair started off with Infosys Chairperson Sudha Murty’s session. She spoke about Grandparents’ Bag of Stories, her latest book and a sequel to Grandma’s Bag of Stories.
When quizzed by children’s author Andaleeb Wajid about what inspired her to write the book, Sudha quipped, “I had only one thing in mind. What would I do if I were a kid stuck in a pandemic and had grandparents in the village? I certainly would want to spend time with them and that’s how this book happened.”
According to the description of the book on Amazon, the book is contextualized in the nationwide lockdown that was announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “A nationwide lockdown is announced and amidst the growing crisis, Ajja and Ajji welcome their grandchildren and Kamlu Ajji into their house in Shiggaon,” it says. The stories revolve around activities like stitching masks together, doing chores, as well as the stories of kings, queens and fantasy worlds that grandparents tell their grandchildren.
When asked about which story from the book was dearest to her, Sudha answered that picking a handful of them will be difficult. “The book is more like an anthology of multiple stories. They are all like pearls woven by a common thread: the grandparents. All the stories stem from my imagination. I was visualizing what my grandparents would do during this situation,” she said.
With over 24 books and 156 titles to her name, Sudha has made her place in literary circles as a renowned children’s book writer. She says spending more time with children has enabled her to become a better writer over the years.
“Children are very frank with you. They will honestly tell you what they feel,” she said, recalling an incident from her time in Kolkata. She was reading a book in a quaint bookstore on Park Street when a child from a group approached her saying that she can write well but cannot read well.
Sudha’s stories have always leaned towards having a great deal of visual imagery. How does she manage to do it? “I write what I visualize,” she replied. Moreover, she has also dabbled in non-fiction.
“Off late, I have been leaning towards non-fiction more. Fiction comes from your imagination, but life is stranger than imagination. There’s no explanation for everything that happens in life and people have more to learn from life than fiction,” she said.
Sudha is known for her philanthropic work as well. Infosys Foundation, that Murthy presides over, has started over 6,000 libraries across Karnataka. She recalled how her grandfather would go to a library every day and that exposed her to the world of books.
“My grandfather made me promise that I will donate books to the needy when I have more wealth than I would need. With Infosys’s success, I could keep the promise I made to him,” she said.