Sudha Murty regularly receives postcards from her readers asking for a job at Infosys. She doesn’t mind really — she’d written one herself once upon a time. She was the first woman engineer to be hired by Tata Motors (then TELCO) after she wrote to JRD Tata against their policy of hiring only males. In Three Thousand Stitches (Penguin, Rs 250), her latest non-fiction book, Murty shares her ordeal of being the first and the only girl student at the BVB College of Engineering and Technology in Karnataka’s Hubli, her hometown. “I cried after writing that story. I don’t know how I could do that at that point in life. But the fact that I did not have a toilet for four years in the college motivated me to build 13,000 toilets in the state,” says Murty, who spearheads the Infosys Foundation.
The first story in Three Thousand Stitches is about the journey of Murty’s first social service project — ending temple prostitution in Karnataka. “Such unusual experiences happen once in a lifetime and they may not happen with everyone. I was overwhelmed while speaking about the devadasis at the book launch in Bengaluru. Social service is not as easy as it is considered to be; one has to keep personal ambitions behind and work for the people,” she says.
A collection of 11 stories based on real life incidents, the book narrates Murty’s experiences and encounters from her youth, family, work at the foundation and her travels. “Experiences happen and I keep them in my mind. They remain with me for a long time but the actual process of writing can take just a few days,” she says.
Interesting encounters happen everyday, but Murty says she does not find the need to maintain a daily journal. “To be a good writer, observation is key. I work with so many people on a daily basis and experiences keep on happening,” she said. The stories in the book have a long and varied timeline — her trip to Uzbekistan that happened two months before she started writing, the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she had attended six months before, and the story about her doctor father’s patient that took place almost 75 years ago.
For a young Murty, storytelling was never the plan. “My mother, a schoolteacher, used to tell us to write essays on our picnics or trips. I never thought I would tell stories one day. I’m not a great writer like others. Perhaps, I’m a writer for the common man,” says Murty, who adds that she will not write an autobiography. “I consider myself a very ordinary person. There is nothing that people can learn from me. It is only the situations that made me what I am today. Readers have already got a glimpse into my life through the non-fiction books I’ve written,” she says.