At a time, when short dresses, bra strap visible tops, inexplicable weird tattoos, and bold hairstyles are counted as the adornment of a strong modern woman, there are those clad in cotton sarees, donning a simple bindi and aging gracefully with grey hair, impressing the world with their extraordinary contribution in field the of education, storytelling and philanthropy.
Who Needs Worldly Desires to Display Success?
Sudha Murthy is a wearer of many hats- a well-known philanthropist, author, engineer, homemaker, and the humble wife of the co-founder of Infosys- Narayana Murthy. Her determined and resolute attitude played a crucial role in shaping her career as well as her husband’s.
Her idea of life has always been one that does not give value to materialistic thoughts and possessions because of her strong belief in humility and knowledge, the two assets which help a man grow in life.
Right from the beginning of her higher education, she has been a gold medallist and an efficient computer programmer. Her extraordinary storytelling in English and Kannada has not only touched many hearts but made her a deserving winner of the Padma Shri award in 2006 and R.K Narayan Award for literature.
Instead of running behind the worldly desires of designer dresses and expensive beauty care, she chose to don a simple traditional Indian look and always emphasized on reading and learning.
Being a woman who loves donning simple sarees, she has not bought a single one in the last 21 years. And in an interview, she revealed why: “I was in Kashi to take the holy dip, and when you go to Kashi you have to give up something that you enjoy the most. I gave up shopping, particularly sarees, from thereon. I now only buy essential items.”
In spite of all the credentials to her name, she faced the accusation of being called a “Cattle-class” in London airport because she wore a simple salwar kameez. While standing in the queue of business class, a lady, clad in a modern Indo-western outfit, had the audacity to show Sudha Murthy her place – which according to that stranger belonged in the economy class. Out of curiosity, Sudha Murthy asked the lady why couldn’t she stand in the business class queue? The lady gave a lengthy explanation of the huge difference in the price of business class and economy class and privileges that only money can buy.
In retaliation, Sudha Murthy told the lady and her friend that, “Money may buy comfort and luxury. But it does not define the class of an individual.” Taking the example of Mother Teresa, who was a classy woman in her own way, Sudha Murthy proved, class and money are never related because there are various ways to earn money- ethical and unethical.
Success Comes to Those Who Exude Passion and Courage
In the early 60s and 70s, graduating as an engineer, joining a male-dominated workforce, encouraging entrepreneurship and selecting your husband were marked as bold steps for an Indian woman. Bending the stereotypic nuisance, Sudha Murthy bravely took all the decisions mentioned above, without pondering what the society would call her.
In the 1960s, learning her enthusiasm for engineering, she was the first woman to enroll for B.E. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the B.V.B. College of Engineering & Technology. In a men-only course, she did face ridicules and questions on her choice, but her parent’s relentless support and her eagerness to study did not deter her decision to pursue engineering.
It is never easy to question the management’s decision, that too, a giant like the TATA’s. But Sudha Murthy had the self-confidence to fight for justice and sent a postcard to TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company’s chairman displaying her anger against the “men-only” prejudice in the company. As a consequence of her complain, she was allowed an interview and based on her exemplary performance awarded a position immediately.
Fighting for your rights is not everyone’s cup of tea. And that too at a time when there were a few female engineers. Gender bias never pulled Sudha Murthy back. She showers the same words of encouragement to her children and today’s generation.
Another choice that makes Sudha Murthy a unique individual was her incredible support towards her husband during the inception of Infosys. It wasn’t easy to rock the boat and start a different life with no business background, yet she decided to support her husband. But as she says, he was a man with vision but no money, she even agreed to help him realize his dream, by lending Rs. 10,000/- which she had saved for a rainy day. And in the interim period, promised to take care of the family’s financial needs.
Sudha Murthy had played an unimaginable role in shaping Infosys. Not only did she take the family’s burden on her shoulder, but she also served as a part-time programmer for Infosys.
Sudha Murthy’s Ideal Parenting Tips
Besides being a legacy in the field of social work, writing and computer engineering, another dominant role Sudha Murthy had taken up with tremendous grace was the role of a homemaker. And she not only aced it but fulfilled the job with pride.
Most parents run behind constructing a career – enticing them with money, travel, and fancy designations. But in the race of building a phenomenal career path, often the kids get side-lined.
Sudha Murthy advocates the idea of balancing your career and upbringing kids because children need nurturing and moral values cannot be bought by money.
So, here are some thoughtful tips for today’s parents from Sudha Murthy’s life and experience:
- Sacrifice gadgets to teach children the importance of a gadget-free life, consisting of books, art, and most importantly- relationships.
- Always introduce reading in a kid’s life. Showcase the advantage of reading and discuss the same books at home. Perhaps the best way to inculcate the habit of reading is leading by example. You read, they read! Simple.
- Have non-negotiable values at home. Teaching correct values at the right age is the right thing to do. Standing in a queue whether you are rich or poor, VIP or non-VIP-stick by the same rules as others.
- Respect is another essential element that needs a constant reminder. Always address a dhobi (washerman) and a driver with “Aap” and not “tu,” Because an elder is an elder, money or status does not determine respect.
- Being a mother is hard, and compromising your career is even harder. A woman should choose what makes her happy, not what society tells her to. If staying at home and looking after the kid is your priority, then take that up with no guilt and shame. However, if both husband and wife contribute equally parenting and career can be much easier and enjoyable.
- Philanthropical ideologies bring a sense of fulfillment in life, and you are always short of time. This ensures you have no time for other unnecessary activities like gossiping and mocking others. And implanting this philosophy as a child is extremely important for learning gratitude and the art of giving back to society.
PS: Kids should read Sudha Murthy’s books to get a lesson on moral values, ethics, and spreading kindness in the world.
Did I mention her quirky side?
Beyond books and social work, Sudha Murthy has a lighter-side too.
She is a huge movie buff and experiences movies with more detail and love than any of us. It is a known fact that just like the collection of her books, she has a selection of more than 500 DVDs that she enjoys watching on her home theatre. She simply never gets bored of movies!
A New Definition of Modern Woman
Her work in the Infosys Foundation as the chairperson, in the field of women, education, poverty, health, etc. is recognized across the world. And the glimpse of her work can be found in some of her popular books like “The Old Man and His God: Discovering the Spirit of India” and “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.”
We women can learn a lot from Sudha Murthy and her values. It takes courage to lead a life full of risks and sacrifices for the sake of family and husband’s aspirations. Yet, she chose to take an unprecedented path without fearing the consequences.
Today, she may be Narayan Murthy’s wife, but her actions and style of living say otherwise. She is and will always stay as a personification of a woman- modern by knowledge and not by choice of clothes.