Hailing from Delhi, author Bhakti Mathur was a banker for 22 years before she turned to writing for children. She debuted in the literary scene with her ‘Amma Tell Me’ series (2016), which was self-published and had 12 books on the festivals and stories from Hindu mythology. The Hong Kong-based author recently came out with the series ‘Amma Take Me’ (Penguin). Designed for 8 to 12 year olds, the stories are written as travelogues and introduce readers to the history of some of the Indian faiths through places of worship, including the Golden Temple in Amritsar and Dargah of Salim Chishti at Fatehpur Sikri. Excerpts from an interview:
What role did these stories play in your life?
My love for mythology was a gift from my grandmother and nanny. Both used to tell me stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata every day after I came back from school. I loved listening to fascinating tales about Hindu Gods, of great kings and heroes, and their triumphs over the most evil of adversaries. The motivation for the ‘Amma Tell Me’ series was to tell my two children about the festivals I grew up celebrating and the stories I grew up hearing.
In times when religion-driven politics and violence is rampant, how important is it for children to learn about religion?
In a polarised world today, with so much intolerance and violence in the name of religion and politics, it is important for children to know that religion does not create problems, people do. All religions are based on the concepts of love, kindness and generosity. Parents need to have discussions with children. How else will we ensure that they grow up to be sensitive, understanding and thoughtful human beings.
If you could tell us about your process of building and writing these stories?
The writing process is threefold. I read and make notes on the place and the monument before we visit. Next, we visit the place as a family and I make notes on what my children are asking, and what fascinates them about the place. To get into the mind of a 10 and12-year- old, there is nothing better than listening to their questions. The third and most difficult part is the writing process itself.
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