Source : The Hindu
Sudha Murthy has brought out lesser-known tales from Indian mythology in her latest book The Upside Down King
Did you know there was a time when bears spoke, the moon laughed and babies were found inside fish? Have you heard of the two-horned sage who had never seen a woman in his life, or seen a man with a thousand arms? These are some of the thrilling tales in Sudha Murthy’s latest book, The Upside Down King. The collection of stories revolve around Rama and Krishna, the two most popular avatars of Vishnu.
The book also has Rama and Krishna’s family tree to help young readers connect better. Sudha, who is also the chairperson of Infosys Foundation said, “This is the third book in the mythology series and focuses on untold stories. My fourth book on women in mythology will be released soon.” After the launch at Crossword bookstore Sudha took time out for an interview. Excerpts.
What was your inspiration for women in mythology?
I have been reading quite a lot of Indian mythology in different languages and versions. My book will not include the oft-repeated tales and accounts of Draupadi or Sita, but will focus on characters that have hardly been written about such as Sukanya, Damayanti and Mandodari. How many in-depth analyses have we read on women in mythology? The written word is mainly male dominated. My stories will make people think about the strong and independent women that people our mythology. I have created characters that would provoke readers to form impressions, perceive images and contemplate motives.
Could you elaborate on the style of The Upside Down King?
I am not for complicated descriptions. I spoke to a lot of adults and found out that simple books were the need of the hour. I feel mythology would become more convincing if stories are understood. A child has trouble accepting certain tales, as they don’t happen in day-to-day life. For example, one has to understand the logic behind Ravana’s 10 heads. I have used metaphors to explain concepts. Ravana does not have 10 heads, but is supposed to have knowledge and wisdom equalling 10 heads.
Who is your target audience?
Not just children, but youngsters and parents as well. Only what parents know will be passed on to the next generation. If we didn’t have oral stories that were passed on, how would we have abundant folklore? There are many books on mythology and stories on the internet. I wondered if people would be interested in one more, but my editors convinced me. They said my uncomplicated style and the logical explanations would enlighten readers. We have a 5000-year-old mythology, every festival has a story, it is in understanding that rare stories come to the fore.
What was the process of putting the book together?
I have delved into the characters to understand them. To explain Rama keeping his ‘promise to his citizens,’ I have gone into his ancestry.
The promise-keeping actually began with Dilipa, Rama’s ancestor and continued over the years through Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha and Rama. The story, ‘The Power of a Name,’ which is a fight between Rama and Hanuman is taken from the Karnataka version of the Ramayana.
Could you comment on the cover?
The image of King Satyavrata on the cover is upside down. It is said that when the king wanted to go to heaven with his body, Indra refused. Rishi Vishwamitra believed his powers could push the king through.
The ensuing fight between Indra and Vishwamitra, sees the king stuck upside down in a new heaven created for him between the heaven and earth.
When did you start writing?
I started writing in school. There was a break for 10 years during my engineering and later Infosys Foundation work. Initially I wrote all my novels in Kannada.
I turned 50 in 2000 and my first English book was published two years later Wise and Otherwise.