On a literary adventure

Teacher-turned-author Viraj Govind Mahatme talks about his latest children’s book ‘Sohni Tames the Dark Devil’, as well as his journey as an author


From his very first book to his most recent release, ‘Sohni Tames the Dark Devil’, Viraj Govind Mahatme has created a collection of stories that appeal to readers of all ages.

However, Mahatme’s path to becoming an author was unconventional. After completing his education in engineering and management, he spent eight years working in the industry before finding his true calling in teaching. His passion for writing emerged in 2019 after participating in a short story writing competition by Fundação Oriente, where his story was selected for their anthology. This validation ignited his confidence as a writer, despite coming from a non-literary background. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that he got the idea for his first book, ‘Adventure of the Shadows,’ inspired by illustrations of animals in a book.

“I took online storytelling courses before writing the story and sought feedback from others to revise it. I received support from my Bengaluru-based editor Shivani Adib. Our interactions played a crucial role in my growth as a writer. I would like to mention an incident where I had described a bird’s sound incorrectly in one of my stories. Adib advised me to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to get the accurate sound. This experience taught me the importance of having a good editor,” he says. The illustrations and cover design of the book were done by his friend’s daughter, Sheebani Kunde.

After his first book’s release, his creative ideas continued to flourish, sparked by everyday observations and conversations. Observing a striped dog rubbing against a tree trunk inspired his second book, ‘The Tiger of Karamba’. A casual joke shared with his daughter led to the birth of ‘Mohit’s Adventure’.

Recently, he released ‘Sohni Tames the Dark Devil’, his first book where the protagonist is a girl. “Around 12 years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a session by wildlife conservationist Kiran Purandare. During his talk, he shared fascinating information about a bird called the Drongo, which had the ability to mimic other animals. This bird captured my interest and stayed in my mind all these years. Eventually, it became the main character in my latest book,” says Mahatme, who has been teaching in the Department of Business Administration, MES College, Zuarinagar, for the last 22 years.

In this book, Drongo is the villain who torments the protagonist, Sohni. Despite her attempts to fight back, she is unable to defeat him. Eventually, she takes extreme measures to deal with him, but it ends up causing a bigger problem. As the story progresses, Sohni discovers the true reason behind Drongo’s behaviour, which leads to a resolution. The story carries a subtle message, emphasising the importance of deeply understanding nature before deciding to change or interfere with it.

While his books are meant for children, these can be read and enjoyed by everyone. “‘The Mango Raid’ is recommended for children 11 years old and older. However, even a senior citizen who is 84 years old enjoyed reading it,” says Mahatme. All of his books are published through Amazon’s KDP platform. “It was difficult for me to learn how to use this platform. My editor and illustrators helped me throughout the process. I want to give a special shout-out to Sagarika Medhi, who illustrated three of my books. Since she lives in Assam, we only communicated online,” says Mahatme, who is next working on a fantasy book that revolves around dragons and is set in a mythical land. “The story will explore themes of greed for power, magical swords, and the unique abilities of dragons that were once capable of painting,” he says.