The two wives – Kadru and Vinata – of Rishi Kashyapa, a revered sage in Hindu mythology, have struck a bet with each other. They had spotted Uchaishravas – a seven-headed horse which was born from the churning of the sea – flying in the sky. They couldn’t agree on the colour of its tail. Was it black? Vinata thought otherwise. Eventually, she lost the bet, accepted her defeat and became a slave to Kadru. She could be saved, but only by the man from an egg. To know what happens next, one would have picked up Sudha Murthy’s latest book for children – The Man from The Egg – Unusual Tales about the Trinity (Puffin; Rs 250).
A compilation of 24 stories, it is the second installation of the series Murthy is writing, bringing together untapped stories from the rich treasure trove of Hindu mythology. “It is a five-part series that I’m writing for children. Generally, we see books on the popular epics of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or of Bala Krishna, but I wanted to write unfamiliar stories. I’ve been reading on mythology for over 50 years, so I like characters which are unusual, from these epics. The scriptures, written in different languages Bengali, Gujarati, Odiya bring such stories to the fore,” she says.
While Murthy’s first book in 2016, The Serpent’s Revenge, brought unusual stories from the Mahabharata, the latest is a set of stories of the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The trio is considered to be responsible for the survival of human race. There are stories of Brahma having five heads; the forked tongues of snakes; did the gods cheat; and even a tale on Shiva’s headgear – the crescent moon. “More than children, these stories are for their mothers, because not many know them. This was the idea behind writing these stories and the entire series,” said the 67-year-old, who is also the chairperson of The Infosys Foundation.
On the waning interest for mythology in present times, and among the younger lot, she says, “These stories are not narrated to children properly, that is why their interest is reducing. You have to spend the time to make them read, and nobody has the patience.” The award-winning author adds, “These stories have boundaries, and are different from the other stories I’ve written. Children have a certain maturity level and they are very smart these days, hence, you can’t exaggerate facts, and stories have to be humorous too.” Bangalore-based Murthy has written numerous books for children including Grandma’s Bag of Stories, How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories, and The Bird with Golden Wings, and fiction and non-fiction for adults.
“Humans relations is missing these days,” says Murthy, when asked about the rising violence among children these days. “One should like another human being because he is human, and not because he is rich, an achiever or talented. You should love the poorest of the poor, find out about their lives. It requires an understanding of the human mind and we consider it a waste of time.”