Bangalore: She started when she was 30 and has since written 24 books. At 62, Sudha Murty, chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, has written technical computer science books, short stories, novels, children’s books and books on her life experiences. All of them, many translated into several Indian languages, have sold over a million copies to date. We spoke to Murty about the release of her new book The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk; the fifth book based on her life experiences, how the experiences chiselled her personality and why she writes about them. Edited excerpts:

What is your new book about?

It is my fifth book based on my experiences in life. Small narrations that have come out of conversations I have had with people. All of them are real, no fiction.

What kind of experiences do you write about?

Work ethic: Murty says the Infosys Foundation has created 50,000 libraries and given more than 10,000 students scholarships. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in school. I wrote essays and in my teen years I used to write sorrowful sad stories and poems as you do at the age (laughs). With tragic ends always. I wrote my first novel when I was 30. And always wondered who will publish or read my books. But they did. My novels are always in Kannada because I express myself better in Kannada. I feel better when I connect with the masses. So local languages are far more satisfying.

Are you disciplined about your writing?

I feel nice when I write. When I write I don’t talk. Particularly when I am writing a novel I am very deeply involved and don’t even like taking phone calls. I don’t eat at times. I can’t afford to do that all the time. So I write early in the morning for two to three hours. Then go for a walk and then to office.

You have mentioned in your book that few people withstand the lure of money.

Very few people are able to keep their heads on their shoulders when money is in the picture. You have to work very hard for it.

I tried my best to bring up my children by telling them that they had no money. But there is a world outside that is always telling them that they are worth so many shares and what not.

It was very important to teach them the value of money and have the normal values of life. It was not easy for me personally either. Because suddenly you have admirers, suddenly you have new friends. You have to struggle to keep you head on your shoulders. I don’t value money so much. Money is here only to help us and to some extent you need it to build a house, to travel.

You can eat one roti and then the second one will make you full. That is not the case with money, you have to draw the line yourself.

What role does working at the Infosys Foundation play in your life?

The foundation has made me what I am. Five years ago, I dedicated the book The Old Man and His God to the Infosys Foundation. People laughed at me because the foundation is not a person. When I joined, the foundation was a baby and I the mother. Now that role is reversed. We are inseparable. I am the daughter of a doctor so the healthcare work is important, I am a teacher so education is important, I am a woman who fights for equality so gender issues are key. I am fond of the arts as well. So every area that we deal with is close to my heart. We have created 50,000 libraries, given more than 10,000 students scholarships. It goes on.

Are you religious?

To some extent. I am not ritualistic, but I am religious.

You have new members in the family.

This book is dedicated to my daughter-in-law Lakshmi and my son-in-law Rishi.

Your son Rohan is involved in a literary project to revive Indian classics through the Murty Classical Library of India.

When I go to Boston, I tell Bill (that’s what she calls Rohan, it’s just a name that stuck), take me to Indian literature classes. When I saw the Loeb series, we discussed that Indian literature should also have one such. We spend hours talking about literature. That’s what we do together as mother and son. And that’s how the project of the Murty Classical Library of India was born. We still enjoy attending classical classes together.

And Akshata is a designer.

It was very unusual for us. We are a family oriented towards academics. But that is what she seemed to love. She was good at it and from a young age has been very critical of my dressing sense. Her venture is on a break right now because she is expecting her second baby.

So Rohan and Akshata grew up listening to several stories?

So many. In fact, they say, never start talking to Amma, else she will start narrating a story.

Now, with my granddaughter Krishna, who is just 15 months old, I just can’t wait for her to grow up so I can tell her stories.

With NRN (husband and Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy) having retired, do you get more time together?

I travel 20 days a months and he is also travelling. For the first time in several years, we travelled with my sisters to Burma last week. So now he has time to do some short holidays.

Someone told me that you know your husband has retired if he picks fights in the kitchen saying the spoons are not clean. So far Murthy has not asked me about the spoons, so things are fine I guess.

But you spend some time together?

When we do manage some time together, Murthy and I enjoy reading and love listening to Kannada songs. We also watch cricket together, but I enjoy going to the stadium and watching, while he doesn’t. We love libraries, so we built our own libraries. I have my own, he has his own.

Incidents like the recent Mangalore attacks on girls—did the moral policing anger you?

Of course, it did. Who are these people to talk about what the girls should wear. If the girl is young, then her parents have a say in it at best. Incidents like these are publicity stunts, people will do anything to get into the papers. Though it is the worst way to be in the papers.

What is your involvement in venture capital firm Catamaran Ventures?

I really don’t get finances, I don’t understand it. I don’t enjoy that. I only spend it. (laughs)

What is your next book about?

I have a Kannada novel called Paridhi that I want to translate to English. It has already been done, but needs some polishing. So, maybe in six months.

pavitra.j@livemint.com

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