5 keys to unlocking success, according to the incomparable Sudha Murty
Because your dog deserves a backyard too, just like Gopi Murty
A viral meme on the internet tells people to hustle now so their dogs can have a backyard later. It’s a dream that’s come to life for Gopi Murty — the family dog of the Murty household. We were interlopers in his backyard when Sudha Murty confided in Twinkle Khanna about being one of India’s most celebrated authors, her marriage, raising a family and her love for Bollywood movies among other things.
The recipient of the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006, Murty is a beloved writer among adults and children alike, with many books to her name, like Wise And Otherwise, Dollar Bahu, and How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories.
Don’t be distracted by the warm, fuzzy grandma feels Murty exudes in abundance because she’s sharper than a paper cut. Along with being a professor of engineering and a social worker, she’s also the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. Married to Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, she was financially instrumental in the formation of the company, having pitched in the seed capital of ₹10,000.
In this episode of The Icons, Murty shares her secret to being successful in life, both professionally and personally, so listen closely because all dogs deserve their own backyard.
Sudha Murty shares her tips to being successful
Treasure your books
Sudha Murty comes from a long line of over-achievers. Her siblings are prolific academics, so is she, being a double gold medallist in electrical engineering and computer science. Naturally, we wondered if it was something their mother was adding to their sambhar. “The treasure was always books. I don’t remember any time my mother bought any gift for us other than books. Of course, she’d buy some dresses on Diwali, but on birthdays, always a book.”
“And loving books, that books are our siblings, having our own library, became part of our lives. So that led us to probably seek knowledge, a love for knowledge, and love for knowledge became our passion and that passion probably excelled us,” Murty explains.
Master the art of self-reliance
Murty was the only woman in her engineering college, so she was treated almost like a specimen in a zoo. The men on campus refused to help her, so she realised she’d have to depend on herself if she wanted to be successful. So no more calling the guard bhaiya because there’s a massive lizard on the wall, people.
“I used to get secret letters saying ‘oh, you’re wasting your time in engineering college, you should get married, you should do your BA in English or Kannada or mathematics, why have you come here?’ That time I realized if I want to be successful in life, I shouldn’t depend on A or B, I should depend on myself. You are the best friend to yourself, you are the worst enemy to yourself. So I would be very attentive in the class, make my own notes, not ask anybody, come back home and study and show everyone that a girl can do engineering.”
Adjusting is not the same as losing
The philosophy Sudha Murty has in life is that sometimes you just have to accept things and move on when you don’t have a choice. Adjusting doesn’t mean losing because it’s better to bend a little than break.
Talking about how she adopted this philosophy while studying in a college with no separate bathroom for women, she recalls she had to be careful about her periods, ever wearing two pads at once sometimes. “It’s hard, but you know, what choice did I have? It was just: leave the college or accept this, and I‘d rather accept this than leave college, so I adjusted.”
Individual freedom is important for a strong marriage
According to Murty, having the freedom to make your own decisions is integral to a successful marriage. “I always felt that everybody has their own space… however close you are, still there is something you would want to do yourself. Not that every time, your husband or wife should be next to you. ”
She advises her husband, but doesn’t demand he follow her instructions to the T. “Suppose he’s making a decision which, according to me, is not correct. So I tell Murty, ‘As a friend, it is my duty to advise you when it is not correct. I’m advising you not to do it. As a wife, I will tell you this is not correct because it is the duty of a wife. However, the final decision is with you’. And I sincerely believe in that.”
Use your privilege to effect change
Sudha Murty is a staunch believer of living a simple life. For the prolific author, the marker of a good person is someone who cares for other people and helps the have-nots even if they’ve made it big in life. And this is the thought process she has reared her children on.
“The most difficult portion of our life, particularly to bring up children, is telling them to lead a simple life because every day, the press will write how much money we have. Every day, they’re aware about their wealth. To tell children, you can afford anything but yet, you should lead a simple life… I say, first you must learn to be a good human being, whether you achieve or not is different. A good human, a kind person, helping others. They are more important factors than what you achieve because I feel that at the end of your life, you always turn back and see what are your achievements. None of them are important. How useful you were to others, how useful you were to your society, how useful you were to your family, that matters, more than I have a hundred kilos of gold or I have so much money. That is my personal way of thinking.”