Sudha Murthy - Woman of Substance

By Shweta Pathak

Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds


Human beings are the most privileged amongst all living beings as only we have the power of cognitive thinking, choosing between right and wrong. This brings up an important point that we have the ability to craft our lives. Ever-increasing societal problems in today’s time is a sign that something is grossly wrong with the fabric of the social system. Whether it is corruption, crime rates, women atrocities, animal suffering or violence; the lack of a value-based social system is the root cause of all.


However, there are some individuals who lead a life full of exemplary work in all spheres of life.


Sudha Murthy is one such woman who has led a life that inspires us every day. Born in a middle-class family in Karnataka, Sudha Kulkarni (later became Sudha Murthy) along with her two sisters and a brother was brought up in a culture of gender equality. Her parents, though from a middle-class Brahmin family, never discriminated between them and their brother. This was one of the reasons why she was so fearless and chose engineering which is otherwise a male-dominated stream of education and was considered a taboo for girls. She happens to be the only lady of her batch. The journey was however not easy and she faced all kinds of issues right from no toilet for the ladies to teasing from boys of her class. However, she remained unmoved and handled all of it with a great amount of calmness and patience.


Such acts of courage continued when she became the first female engineer selected by an engineering giant, Telco. Becoming the first lady, to work on the shop floor, which only had men, marked her brilliance and bravery. However, this achievement didn’t come easy; she raised her voice when she saw the hiring application form of Telco mentioning ‘Ladies students need not apply’. She raised her voice against it by writing to Mr. JRD. Tata. This story from her life is a very important lesson for all working women that great achievements require huge efforts.


In spite of such a strong inclination for work, she is a woman who is high on personal commitment as well. This can be seen by the fact that she left her entrepreneurial job for her life partner and also to ensure that she can give her full time to the family. She gave an important lesson on family values, when she said, ‘Being an entrepreneur demands time away from the family and then you can’t play that card that I am a female’. That the decision broke her heart because she knew what she was capable of. This incident teaches us about the commitment towards work and that nobody can have it all and it is fine to not have it all.


On strength of women, she cited a beautiful story of a baby elephant that would throw anyone 20 feet away whereas the mother elephant was just eating because she was tied with a chain to the tree. She was completely unaware of her power that she can make the tree fall down with just one leg. Thus, women don’t really need empowerment. They only need to realize their inner strength, and society at large needs to help her in that.


She has been an inspiration to have a no-nonsense attitude when she handled on her being called a ‘cattle class’. An instance happened at Heathrow airport when she was asked to stand in an economic queue as she was wearing a Saree, assuming and that she couldn’t have afforded a business class ticket. This incident speaks about the stereotype prevailing in society towards the external appearance of an individual. However, she didn’t leave it unattended and addressed the issue by teaching a lesson on being non-judgemental.


On parenting, she highlighted how important is character-building necessary for the children, right from an early age. She laid out some parenting guidelines which will develop the kind of youth our society is in need of. She stressed the importance of leading by example, as kids do not do what is told; they do what they see their parents and teachers doing. She had set some ground rules such as ‘no reading no dinner’ or ‘read the books and let us discuss it’. She inculcated the sense of philanthropy by taking her kids to see her place of work, which made them realize the condition of underprivileged kids, showing them how they live. An important lesson on respecting people has come from her instruction of calling everyone ‘aap’ and not to use ‘tu’. In an interview, she spoke about the importance of establishing a non-negotiable value system in children.


In a TV program, she spoke about the portrayal of a mother-in-law, proving everyone that she is a new-age mother in law. She advises mothers-in-law not to burden the children with expectations and rather be more flexible towards them.


She has received prestigious awards such as Padma Shri and various gold medals for her excellent performance in education and philanthropy, which she accepts with humility. To date, she is synonymous with simplicity. This reflects in her thoughts when she spoke about how life changes when one becomes successful. ‘Genuine relationships become a rarity then and almost everything is a transaction in one or the other way’, she expressed.


Sudha Murthy is a classic example that being modern has nothing to do with age or your clothes. It’s the ability to be adaptable, courageous, non-judgemental and compassionate that makes an individual modern.


The most important lesson for me from her life is to be a combination of courage and compassion. How important it is to stand strong for what you believe in or want in your life, at the same time be compassionate towards people those who led their life in one or the other scarcity, contribute for their uplifting!


I salute to the ‘woman of substance’, ever gracious, brilliant and brave, and an epitome of simplicity - Sudha Murthy.


(Featured Images from Google)


About Shweta Pathak

Ms. Shweta Pathak

Shweta is an L&D OD professional holding a decade long experience. She is a Nature lover and likes reading fictional as well as real stories and Vedic Scriptures.


She has recently started a journey to explore Spirituality through the path of Vedant Philosophy.


She is keen to participate in the causes of environmental conservation and animal care.


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