Pet project

Hailing from a family of farmers and having grown up surrounded by animals, pets were an integral part of Murty’s upbringing.
Sudha Murty with husband Narayana Murthy and her Golden Retriever Gopi at the launch event
Sudha Murty with husband Narayana Murthy and her Golden Retriever Gopi at the launch event Photo| Nagaraja Gadekal

BENGALURU: From little five-year olds to the adults in the audience – everyone was up early in the morning on a Sunday no less to catch a glimpse of the famed Gopi, the protagonist of author Sudha Murty’s children’s book series The Gopi Diaries. The energetic Golden Retriever was accompanying Murty on the release of her new book Gopi’s Day Out (HarperCollins; Rs 399), where she was accompanied by her husband, Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy.

In this fourth addition to the series, the story begins with Gopi getting lost, venturing beyond the comfort of his home and experiencing the harsh realities faced by street dogs. “This book is written from Gopi’s perspective as he encounters the life of a street dog. He comes to know so many difficulties of other dogs because he’s always sheltered and pampered and has always been a VIP dog,” says Murty while in conversation with Shinie Antony, writer and co-founder of Bangalore Literature Festival.

Hailing from a family of farmers and having grown up surrounded by animals, pets were an integral part of Murty’s upbringing. “I grew up with a dog by the name Raja and then we had Julie. But Mr Narayana Murthy was very scared of dogs so we never had one in our family for 40 years.” It was Gopi, originally son Rohan Murty’s dog, who changed everything for her. “I really fell in love with him instantly. He was 5kg and today he is 48kg. I can’t even lift him anymore,” chuckles Murty.

Talking about balancing reality and fiction in her stories, she says that while the first three books in The Gopi’s Diaries series are entirely true, Gopi’s Day Out intertwines factual events with imaginative elements. “Parts of it are true but they are not sequential. For instance, one day it was Vani, a street dog who was brought in by Gopi, who went missing and I underwent the trauma of not having her in the house. That inspired the events in the book,” says Murty.

Murty, the mother-in-law of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, emphasises the importance of compassion, a recurring theme in her books. “Everybody thinks only about themselves. But this planet belongs to everyone. Birds, trees, and animals,” she says. Through Gopi’s experiences, she aims to instil a sense of empathy and responsibility in her readers, especially children. “When you grow up with animals, you understand what helplessness is. You have to grow up with compassion,” she adds.

Her simple storytelling, set against the backdrop of Indian culture, fills a void that she herself felt as a child. “I was a Kannada-medium student and it was very difficult to find good children’s books except Enid Blyton. Her books are beautiful, but they’re set in a different country. For instance, the setting of the Famous Five series in caves doesn’t work in Indian settings,” she explains, adding, “We did not have many stories in English in Indian settings like Diwali, Ganpati, and things like that. So, I probably started writing from that place, where language is simple. Something that connects to the Indian culture and is familiar.”

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