Princess Suryaprabha wanted to marry a man who was even more intelligent and learned than her. So she said to her father, “Let any man ask me nine questions. If I am unable to answer even of them, I will marry.”
A handsome man came to the court and started asking questions to the princess and the princess is able to answer seven of them accurately. There were only two questions left. The young man asked her a very clever question – “Princess, which is the question you can’t answer?” The princess was stumped. If she told him, the young man would ask that question as the last one and if she did not answer, she would lose anyway.
She smiled and said “I accept defeat”As quoted from Sudha Murthy’s short story
Sudha Murthy has a collection of such more stories in her kitty which she keeps on including in her prolific works. She is a teacher, philanthropist, chairperson of Infosys, and a well-known writer in Kannada, Marathi, and English. Her stories for children are a delight to read. She has a bag of Grandma’s stories that are full of kings and cheats, monkeys and mice, bears, and Gods.
In her collection of semi-autobiographical stories, “How I taught my grandmother to read” is an alluring collection of stories that recount some fun and engaging real-life incidents from the life of Sudha Murthy. The stories inspire readers to believe in what’s right and to go the extra mile to realize their dreams. In the stories like “Salaam Abdul Kalam” and “Appro J.R.D”, she talks of two eminent personalities who enjoyed the greatest heights in their professional life but never shied from extending support and befriending common people. She recounts an incident when her husband, Narayan Murthy was late to pick her from office and J.R.D. Tata waited with her till Narayan came and cautioned him to come on time. Kalam is a person known to all but Murthy portrays him as a person who was like a friend to her and it sheds new light on his life and his character.
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Her stories are full of moral accounts that are a treat for young children reading them. In her collection of stories titled “The bird with golden wings”, she tried to leave an impression on the readers that more greed can always lead to an abrupt end to one’s ambitions and one’s life too. In the title story, she talks of a golden bird that is fed by a young girl and fulfills her wishes but as soon as her greedy mother approaches her, the bird gifts her snake and never comes back. An interesting story is “How the sea becomes salty” which has been perhaps picked from the legends. A greedy couple uses the magical fan to prove the ship captain that they are salt merchants, turn the sea salty as they don’t know how to stop the fan from giving more salt.
Her stories are equally funny and will leave with a wide grin on your face realizing that the stories weaved funny elements in such an effortless manner. My favorite is “The king with donkey’s ear”. The secret that the king has donkey’s ears is well kept by the king’s parents and his barber. But when the barber’s son witnesses the secret, he is not able to keep it to himself and runs into the land and buries his head deep in the mud and screams “The king has donkey ears” and relieves himself. The mud had some seeds planted in it which grew into a tree and were used to make drums for the king’s court. The drums spill out the secret every time they are hit and that’s how the entire kingdom comes to know of king’s ears.
The stories of Sudha Murthy also consist of mystical elements that eventually become a cause of concern for the characters, either by granting boons or cautioning them from getting into excess, but the characters always land in trouble. In the story, “Sulakshini and the lake demon”, the girl finds a spring of water when her village mates are finding it difficult to meet the needs of water. The Lake demon warns her that if she tells about this to anybody in the village, she will be taken up in the stream by the demon. She fears death. Somebody will have to die, either her or her village mates. How she tackles the demon is worth reading.
Her book, “The magic of lost temple” narrates the story of Noorie, a young girl living in cities who is on a vacation to her grandparent’s home. The story will make you feel nostalgic about the way we used to visit the home of our grandparents on our vacation and what a relief it used to be! It gave us a long break from rushing to school and other places in cities. She also discovers an ancient stepwell in the village which adds extra glamour to the story.
Being an adult when I read her books, it seemed a bit preachy and unrealistic but when I read them with a child’s heart, I realized how special they were. Written in simple language, talking of simple things, and showing the magic, her stories were an absolute delight to read. Are you planning to read her books any soon?