Pika Nani is the pen name of Deepika Murthy, a Bangalore based organizational psychologist turned writer. Her first children’s book ‘Little Indians - stories from across the country’ is a fact + fiction book published by Tulika Publishers. Her book has won a lot of praise, it has been recognized among ‘50 Indian books every parent must read to their child’ (By: The Alternative) and in ‘An India-centric book list – 50 books we love! (LifeandTimes in Bangalore).
In conversation with Deepika-
Please take us through your life and outline your career path so far. And how did writing happen to you?
I was born in Bangalore and brought up in Mumbai. After my M.A in Organizational Psychology, I worked in the Training and Recruitment Divisions of companies like Tata Motors, HP and SAP for 8 years.
I took a career break when my daughter was born. When she started going to playschool I wanted to re-join work, but before that I asked myself, “What is my dream job?” It was then the answer “Writer” came to me like a blast from the past. In fact I had been writing short stories and poems since my school days and even wanted to become a writer, but had long forgotten about it.
I decided if I had carried the dream for so long, then it deserves a shot. I started writing my book in 2010. ‘Little Indians’ was launched on August 15 2013.
What does your work involve? A typical day
There is nothing like a typical day! Actually writing a book can be divided into phases
Ideating and Researching are the most exciting phases. My ideas came from my travels. Phases 3 and 4 involve long hours in front of the computer. Once the Publisher enters the picture then we have to work with the editor and there are deadlines to be met. The book launch is when we are out promoting our book.
In addition, school visits, workshops and events happen year round.
What do you love about what you do?
I love the creative process. Much like a potter shaping clay on the wheel, authors shape their ideas till it takes the definite form of a story.
I love to get totally involved in my stories. I could be chasing kidnappers in Bhedaghat or escaping from crocodiles in the Andamans…all this adventure without leaving my desk!
What are the challenges?
Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new was the biggest challenge. One has to be self-motivated during the initial stages and have a learning attitude.
As an author there are challenges in each of the 7 phases I have spoken about. I try to take things one step at a time. This helps in avoiding unnecessary stress.
What are the skills important for your role?
Creative thinking and language skills….but most of all perseverance! Getting an idea worthy of a book takes time. Finding a publisher takes time. The key is to keep trying and not give up.
Please tell us about some memorable moments
Holding the first copy of my book- with my name printed on it!
Then there was the book launch, where I was introduced as an author for the first time. So many people had turned up to encourage me.
Another recent moment was when my book was included in a list of ‘50 Indian books every parent must read to their child’ (The alternative) and ‘An India centric book list – 50 books we love! (Lifeandtimes in Bangalore)‘Little Indians’ was right there next to my idol R K Narayan and other great authors I had grown up reading!
Your ambition, Dreams for the future
My next book is my next dream.
What skills did you bring to your current career?
Whatever I have learnt about writing, I have learnt by reading. I consider R K Narayanan and O. Henry as my gurus. I used to develop training content in my last HR role and it has helped with the writing skills.
Who or what are your inspirations?
My inspiration is my daughter. Spending time with her helped me to reconnect with my childhood and my childhood dream. My family, especially my husband and my nani (maternal grandmother) motivated me to achieve something in my life.
Today, when children come up to me and tell me that they loved my book, it motivates me to keep on writing.
Your other interest areas
I love reading and travelling. My book has stories from 15 states of India and is a result of my interest in travelling.
Career advice – how do you think one should think about a career? What should a career be? And thoughts and advice on a career in your field.
Where passion and potential meet they make for a successful career. So first do an honest evaluation of your skills vis-à-vis your career interests.
Authors earn a lot of love and respect, but not much money. Not all writers become billionaires like J K Rowling! So it is good to have a secondary job, at least till you become a published writer.
Having said that, today there are more opportunities than before for aspiring authors with options like self-publishing, e-books and online sales.
As a writer you can touch people’s hearts, stimulate their minds, make them smile – without having ever met them! It is the biggest reward and also a great responsibility.
Books that have inspired you
I remember school vacations spent reading Enid Blytons, and wanting to grow up to be a writer. Later Agatha Christie and Jane Austen became my favourites. R K Narayan’s ‘Swami and friends’ and O. Henry’s ‘Selected short stories’ are two books that have always inspired me.
Image Courtesy: Deepika Murthy
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