I wrote it like fiction: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni on crafting the uncommon love story of Murthys in her book
How did you decide to write a non-fiction book?
When I was approached by publisher Chiki Sarkar for the book, it took me a while before I agreed to it. I have known the Murthy family for over 40 years because I went to school with Sudhaji’s younger brother Srinivas in California. When I told Chiki I didn’t know how to write non-fiction, she asked me to get all the facts and write it as fiction, bringing the characters to life. That was my approach towards the book. I saw all of the people as characters, growing and changing with the drama in their lives, which is not unlike fiction.
As much as the book is about the story of these two people, it is also about Infosys. How did you manage to strike a balance between both?
It was really after a lot of interviewing, and staying with them in Bengaluru for the book that I understood what makes theirs an uncommon love story. While it is a love story between Narayana and Sudha Murthy, it is also one of Narayana, Sudha and Infosys. It became problematic at times because for Mr Murthy, Infosys was an obsessive tale. It was his heart’s desire. How do you then balance that with the love for your wife and children; the public and private domain? The children actually have a love-hate relationship with Infosys. So does Sudhaji, because she realises it’s a beautiful dream, but also something that is taking her husband away from her. It is a love story with a twist that she has to handle.
Tell us a bit about the research.
I spoke to the Murthys and their children multiple times over Zoom, and then in person at their home in Bengaluru. Some of their friends from their Pune days were in town, and I spoke to them as well as to Sudhaji’s siblings, who shared some wonderful stories and anecdotes from her younger days.
Much of your fiction writing has women at the centre. Did you at times find it difficult to stop yourself from making Sudha Murthy the protagonist of the story here?
I struggled a little bit initially, but because Narayanaji gave me so many wonderful facts about his life, it became easier. His father was stern and even beat him up at times. I’m sure it took a lot on his part to share that with me. His family was struggling financially and he could not go to IIT because of that. His dreams were shattered and he told me how much he cried when that happened. When he shared those stories with me, he became an equally major character in the book, because this was the story of overcoming the challenges and still have the fire inside to go after your dreams.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a fantasy novel based on old Bengali folk tales.