Outlook’s Lachmi Deb Roy speaks to author Sudha Murthy on her new book, ‘The Daughter from a Wishing Tree: Unusual Tales About Women in Mythology’ at the Penguin Annual Lecture, 2019. The book features tales of women in Indian mythology. Excerpts:
Tell us about your new book, ‘The Daughter from a Wishing Tree’
Parvati is the mother of the Universe. She has two sons, but she felt her life is incomplete without a daughter. By praying to wishing tree, she gets a daughter. That indicates how important it is to have a daughter. This is the main storyline of my book, ‘The Daughter from a Wishing Tree.’ My book The Daughter from a Wishing Tree features tales of women in Indian mythology. There are not many stories about women because most were by men. Sita and Draupadi are popular characters, but we forget that there are many others like Damayanti, Devayani, Sukanya and Bhamati who need to be recognised too. It is sad that nobody talks about them, so I decided to bring them together in my book. It contains stories of women who slew demons and fiercely protected their devotees.
Do you think kids these days are not fascinated with mythology?
Mythology does not fascinate children as much these days. Earlier, grandparents narrated mythical tales, but in a nuclear family setup, this is difficult. Regardless, mythology is an important part of our culture; parents and grandparents should realise this. They should themselves read and be connected to myths. The best way to revive such literature is to have books written for grandmothers and mothers so that they can read these stories to their children. If parents know about mythology, only then can they pass it down to the next generation.
Why are people falling out of the habit of reading, especially children?
Today, electronic gadgets seem more fascinating than books. So when parents are busy, children opt for the easiest mode of recreation—electronic games. After school hours, when they should be indulging in books, they are busy gaming. I admit electronic gadgets are more beautiful and interactive, but in the long run, it is not good for a child’s overall development.
How did you inculcate the habit of reading in your children?
My children picked up the habit of reading because I used to read.
What is your advice for today’s parents?
Parents must set the right example—what you want your child to become, you should become that first. You can’t ask your child to read if you don’t—if you use WhatsApp all the time and expect them to spend their leisure time reading, that won’t happen. It is extremely important for parents to set the right example.