Intersectional Champion of the Month: Sudha Murthy

Before we delve into the inspirational life of our intersectional champion of the month, we want to take this opportunity to talk about what makes an intersectional champion. The series has been inspired by people who have worked during their lifespans to remove the difference between various sections of society. Whether it is working towards social inclusion of women, or tribal population, or voicing the concerns of minorities in India, these champions have used their platform to try to create a better society. But does this mean that our champions are perfect personas? No. They are humans too and equally fallible as you and me.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Actions

Rabindranath Tagore, before he embraced the concept of humanism, too participated in the caste practices in his early days. While Priyanka Chopra has worked towards improving the lives of impoverished children in developing nations, and has shattered the glass ceiling in her industry to pave the way for young Indian actresses to claim more space, she is also human and subject to her own opinions. Recently, there was a furore about her tweet congratulating the Indian Army, after the surgical strikes. Does a congratulatory tweet equal to war mongering?

That was more of an escalation of the situation than the actual strikes. It would surprise you to know that the surgical strikes have been used by the Indian Army for decades, as a method to meet with unfriendly fires at the border. Lately, however, the Modi Government has claimed credit and publicized about their military tactics. We already know that Priyanka Chopra is an Army Brat, is it then so inconceivable that she would speak out in support of the Indian Army? Does her upbringing and national pride negate all the work she has been doing as an adult and a good samaritan? Would you have been more comfortable if she had posted that tweet on a day of national importance perhaps? That being said, Twisted Tiara in no way condones the actions of any government or military.

The Spirit of Inclusion

This series is aimed at learning and understanding the different threads of intersectionality. To gain a deeper knowledge into the social problems in India and how actions by some people have made a difference in including more people in the folds of progressive society. We must learn from their positive attributes and actions. We must try to imbibe their spirit of inclusion in our daily lives. At the same time however, we must let them be human. 

Sudha Murthy: Claiming your own space

The prolific and diverse interests of Sudha Murthy as a teacher, writer, engineer, philanthropist, and mother, serves to showcase to our young female population, that you don’t have to fit in a box. Being one of the few girls on campus at her engineering college, and as the first female engineer to be hired at TELCO, she believes in women claiming space.

After completing her Masters in Computer Science, she responded to an ad for engineer at TELCO, which specifically read ‘Women need not apply’. She wrote directly to the then Chairman of TELCO, JRD Tata, calling out the organization for its gender bias. She was invited for a special interview and thereafter began her career at TELCO. Ladies, read, re-read and memorise this mantra, by this formidable woman: 

“A cuckoo should never dance and a peacock should never sing. Be true to yourself and work hard”

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Soft Heart and Strong Hands

As the trustee and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, she relentlessly carries out social work in the areas of education, rural development, healthcare, arts and culture, and destitute care. She is the driving force behind the institution and takes immense pride in working with all sections of the society, in areas that are traditionally overlooked by society at large. 

The turning point for her, personally, arrived when an innocent question posed by her daughter, helped her realise that helping people was her true calling in life. One of her first projects was for the rehabilitation of sex workers. After 18 years of work within the sector, they recently organised a thanksgiving ceremony in her honour. When asked about her contribution to society, this is what she had to say:  

I went there on the stage and the 3,000 of them, who were now leading normal lives, wanted to hear from me and I was absolutely speechless. The tears started to flow and I quoted a shloka from Ramayana: ‘God… don’t make me rich, don’t make me beautiful, don’t make me a queen. If at all you want to give me anything, give me a soft heart and a strong hand, so I can wipe the tears of others.

– Sudha Murthy at Women Mission 2019

Giving the Social Sector a Helping Hand

She has been a staunch supporter of increasing transparency within the social sector. She is outspoken about the imperfect sector Infosys Foundation operates within. They make it a point to conduct thorough checks before taking on projects with NGOs. She has also voiced her support for a Social Stock Exchange which would encourage transparency within the social sector and increase access to funding. Recently, the Infosys Foundation has launched the Aarohan Social Innovation Awards, to encourage entrepreneurs that are working within the social sector to create impact and innovative solutions. 

She is known as an innovator, teacher, the woman who helped lay the first brick at Infosys Technologies ltd, but above all, she identifies as a human being. Her humility is awe inspiring. She has even sworn off material purchases like sarees and jewellery almost 25 years ago! She truly believes in engaging with the people she is trying to help, rather than just funding initiatives at a one arm distance. We all are aware of the social problems that exist in the Indian society. Few of us, have also thought deeply about them. Even less, have taken the step to do something to alleviate them. Sudha Murthy, sets an example for us all to follow.

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