As a woman, it had been a tough life for our mothers, grandmothers in general. Even at homes, it was difficult for them to speak, let alone work. But as my mother recalls, a story from her time -- "The Girl Who Wrote To JRD Tata" became the reason many women stepped out to work. So, I read about Sudha Murthy and her works and what intrigued me was the one line she said.
"I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties. So I answered, "But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.""
That was a life-changing moment; for her and for many women of that period.
A brief about Sudha Murthy
Sudha Murthy is an Indian engineering teacher, Kannada, Marathi and English author as well as a Social worker. She is also the Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. She is the wife of the co-founder of Infosys, N. R. Narayana Murthy. Sudha Murthy began her professional career in computer science and engineering.
Sudha Murthy became the first female engineer hired at India’s largest auto manufacturer TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO), now Tata Motors. Later post-Telco, she shifted to Pune when Narayan Murthy laid the foundation to Infosys. Sudha Murthy started the Infosys Foundation in 1996.
"The Girl Who Wrote To JRD Tata"
While in college, she wished to pursue a doctorate in Computer Science. But when a job advertisement from Telco (now, Tata Motors) stated that "Lady candidates need not apply"; she wrote to JRD Tata about the gender bias and the injustice. 10 days later she received a telegram to come for an interview.
She nailed the technical interview (obviously!) and got the job. She was the first woman engineer in Telco (Big feat for the time).
This was in 1974.
Social Worker, Teacher, Author and a Movie Buff
An engineer by qualification, she is one among the initial few pioneers who broke the mould. Murthy has been very vocal in her support towards social causes and as the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, she has helped various social change initiatives.
Through Foundation she has built 2,300 houses in the flood-affected areas. Murthy's social work covers the healthcare, education, empowerment of women, public hygiene, art and culture, and poverty alleviation at the grassroots level. Her vision of a library for each school has resulted in the setting up of 70,000 libraries so far.
She is helping out rural areas by building 16,000 public toilets and several hundred toilets in the city of Bengaluru. She has handled national natural disasters like tsunamis in Tamil Nadu and Andaman, earthquake in Kutch – Gujarat, hurricane and floods in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and drought in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Murthy has contributed with over 30 books in Kannada and English. She also received the Best Teacher Award in 1995 from the Rotary Club of Karnataka. In one of her life stories, she wrote how she taught her grandmother to read. A 12-year Sudha Murthy teaching her grandmother to read is a sight to behold.
Further, she has close to 20 awards in her social work category.
A movie buff, Sudha Murthy told Filmfare that she once watched 365 movies in 365 days!