Here, There and Everywhere

Best-Loved Stories of Sudha Murthy

I am experimenting with a new post series called the Book of the Month. As part of this series, I will write about books I have finished and enjoyed reading. Hopefully, it would give you a glimpse of the book and allow you to see if you are interested in reading it, while also keeping me accountable to finish more books rather than leaving them incomplete.

The first post is about the book I recently read named, “Here, There and Everywhere” by Sudha Murthy. Sudha Murthy is an Indian author and philanthropist. She is the founder of Infosys Foundation which is one of the largest corporate foundations in India. For her contributions, she was also recently awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India. She has written many books, but this is the first book by her that I have read. This book is a collection of short stories from the author’s life, many of them about her experiences with philanthropy, the realizations she has had working with different people in India, stories she heard from her father, stories of how she got into writing, of her struggles being the only girl in an engineering college and many more. I particularly liked her simple and heartfelt way of story writing. In fact, some initial publishers whom she contacted rejected her manuscripts, calling her language too simple, but she has maintained that to keep her style distinctive.

There is one particular story that I liked in which Sudha Murthy visits a monastery at Yarlung Valley in Tibet. As she sits down at the steps to soak in the serenity of the place, she notices an old woman accompanied by a young boy walking to the monastery. After the old lady is done with her rituals, she says something to the young boy in Tibetan and starts walking towards Sudha. She comes near her, takes Sudha’s hands, and saying something, gently raises her hands to her eyes and kisses them. She gets up and starts to walk away with a smile of having achieved a long held desire, leaving a wetness in Sudha’s hands. Sudha was very confused as she had no idea who this woman was.

The young boy comes and starts apologizing for his grandmother’s behavior in English. He explains that his grandmother was thanking Sudha. Sudha is even more confused because she doesn’t recall any reason she should be thanking her. The boy explains further that she was thanking her because India has sheltered their Dalai Lama. His Holiness The Dalai Lama had to leave Tibet in 1959, after which he took exile in a small town named Dharamshala in the north of India. Dalai Lama is like a living God for many Tibetans. The young boy explained further that his grandmother said that it was a gift that she met an Indian and was able to thank her for sheltering their Dalai Lama. The author could only look down at the wet spot on her hand and smile.

This heart warming story also reminded me of my days in Dharamshala. Almost ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to get to spend over a month in Dharamshala, live in one of the monasteries and also get to meet the Dalai Lama. I was also a bit surprised to witness this sense of gratitude among Tibetans living there towards Indians. The school’s walls would have a giant “Thank You, India” written on them. The kids would sing both Tibetan and Indian national anthems in school. The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives would offer courses for free to Indians. Tushita Meditation Centre, which is one of the most pristine places I have been to, also offers multi-days meditation retreats which are free only for Indians while the cost was close to $100 for everyone else, that too, 10 years ago, when the currency had a lot more buying power. It’s quite amazing to see them giving back in so many ways, which no one is requiring them to do.

Through her stories in this book, this is also a message that Sudha Murthy gives: “Philanthropy isn’t about how much a person has but their attitude towards fellow beings. It is compassion, a kind word, a warm hug and a little sharing that makes us better human beings.”