Puppy love: Sudha Murty’s new book takes children on an adventure with her pet, Gopi
I bump into Gopi Murty while waiting for Sudha Murty, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and celebrated author, for an interview on her new book, The Gopi Diaries – Coming Home, the first of a three-part series.
Gopi is a one-year-old, extremely friendly, and handsome golden retriever who seems to follow his mistress everywhere. He even stands watch outside the restroom while she uses it. An amusing and “aww” moment at the same time!
It comes as no surprise that Gopi occupies a very important place in Sudha’s life and inspired her to write her latest book, the first in the series published by Harper Collins.
The book for children chronicles Gopi’s life after he is brought home, his adventures and misadventures, and how he assimilates into the family comprising his appa, ajja, ajji, tachi ajji, and his cousins. Told through Gopi’s eyes, it speaks of a love so pure that can exist between a pet and his family.
“Gopi inspired me to look at life through his eyes. Though my son Rohan brought him home, he stays with me all the time, and doesn’t even leave me for a minute,” Sudha says.
Even when she is on tour, Gopi is constantly on her mind, and she Facetimes him all the time.
Seeing the world through Gopi’s eyes
Sudha wrote the first draft in just two-and-half hours.
“Initially, I thought I wouldn’t be able to write anything except that Gopi is a handsome golden retriever. Then, I saw the world through him. It would have been very different to be brought to a new family, be taught different things, and assimilate into the family,” she says.
The objective of the book is to inculcate a love for animals among children along with spotlighting the values of sharing, caring, and compassion.
As a child, Sudha had a dog called Raja, who passed away. Though it is sad that a dog leaves you sooner than you think, she believes that the love stays on. That love can be transferred to another pet without diluting what you had for the first one, she feels.
“With animals, you don’t require a language to communicate. It also makes you careful about how you treat them. Kids are at an impressionable age where they understand these things. When it rains, the first thing you will think about is the safety of your pet. In winter, I wrap Gopi in a rug because I know he feels cold,” she says.
Gopi is not alone; he has company in the form of two other dogs, one two-legged and the other three-legged, strays adopted from the shelter.
“There are so many dogs out there, on the streets and in shelters. If a colony can adopt three-four dogs, vaccinate them, and treat them with love and affection, children will also learn to be compassionate.”
She says that taking care of a pet is also a fun activity, and a good opportunity for children to enjoy the outdoors by taking their pets out on walks. “They learn to socialise with other people and listen to different sounds.”
Almost everything that’s in The Gopi Diaries is from real life. In it, Sudha mentions a comical moment when Gopi pulls Ajji’s dupatta. “Today, if I had worn a salwar-kameez instead of a sari, he would have pulled off the dupatta,” she says with a laugh.
Today, Gopi is content playing with a soft toy Sudha has bought him to celebrate the launch of his book. Tired of playing all day, he goes to sleep, at Sudha’s feet, as she watches adoringly.
She speaks of a visit to a school in Bengaluru to introduce the book. “When I spoke about Gopi, they were all excited. They had brought their soft toy dogs along and refused to part with them when I asked,” she chuckles, adding, “I think as four-year-olds, it was the right age for them to grasp the importance of having a pet and caring for it.”
Kids need Indian themes
Sudha believes that writing a book for children requires a lot of effort. “The excitement has to be kept going till the end of the book. It should not be too vivid, must be relatable, and must have a positive ending.”
She feels India is a great market for children’s books and there are not many authors catering to the segment though there are parents willing to spend money on good books.
“All our fairy tales are from abroad, we need something that resonates with Indian children. For example, use Ganga instead of the Thames, an Indian princess instead of a foreign one,” she says.
Sudha’s new book is edited by Shrukeerti Khurana and filled with lively pictures of Gopi’s activities, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat.
When you come to the end of the book, you can’t help but wonder what Gopi will be up to next. “Gopi gets a teacher, he comes to office; there are more adventures in store,” Sudha says.
If Gopi was awake, he would have surely had one thing to say: “woof, woof!”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)