One day my 15 year old daughter asked me, ‘Amma! You are educated, self-sufficient, if people like you will not help the needy, then who else will? ”This daughter’s question distracted me. I asked myself, what is the goal of my life? Everyone should ask themselves this question. Sometimes a question to oneself gives a new view of living.
Sudha Murthy, chairperson and social worker of Infosys Foundation, was the first female engineer to be appointed in the Tata group’s Telco company. Influenced by JRD Tata’s thoughts, Sudha has written several books, including How I Taught My Grandmother to Read and Other Stories and Dollar Bahu. Sudha, the wife of Infosys company founder Narayana Murthy, was honored with the Padma Shri award in the year 2006. Here is an excerpt from his speech at University of California at Berkeley College:
I have not come here to give you advice on social service or philanthropy. I just want to share some of my experiences with you. Such experiences, which I gained while helping people in my country. These are great lessons in my life. I studied the first twenty-five years of my life and spent the next twenty years in my career. Then suddenly one day a question came in front of me which changed the direction of my life. Then I was 45 years old.
One day my daughter told me that she wanted to help a poor and blind child. The child was brilliant and wanted to study in a school in Delhi. Her family was unable to afford her studies, so my daughter wanted me to help her. I told her that I cannot do anything in this matter, if she wants, she can help the child. My daughter got angry on hearing this. At that time she was only 15 years old. He asked me, ‘Amma! How can I help her, you don’t even give me pocket money, that child needs financial help. You have to do something. ”I kept quiet after hearing this. Then he posed a serious question, ‘Amma, you are educated, self-sufficient, if people like you will not help the poor, then who will?’
New phase of life
The daughter’s question distracted me. I did not feel like going to college. The daughter’s words were echoing in her ears. I asked myself, what am I working for? What is the goal of my life? Every human should ask this question to himself. Sometimes it is necessary to ask yourself questions. I thought that for a long time I worked for myself, for the company and for the family. Should I no longer work for others? In the country where I was born, do I have no responsibility towards the people of that country? As an answer to this question, I decided that now I will leave everything and help the needy people. After that I started visiting villages, backward and tribal areas, so that I could understand the problems of the people. In this way a new phase of my life started.
Learned from people
To be honest, this new phase of my life was quite interesting. I learned many new things. These experiences, these lessons were truly memorable. I have come to know my country properly only through poor and needy people. These people taught me many great lessons. I could not find these lessons in any university or book. These things inspired me to write. While helping people, I learned that there is no age to learn. We can start afresh at any age. While visiting the backward areas, I realized how important it is to change the mindset to do anything new. Small experiences teach you big lessons.
I worked among abandoned children, leprosy patients, the elderly and other needy people. Once I was going to a village in Karnataka to participate in an event. I found an abandoned child on the train. He was begging. I talked to him. He told that he had run away from home a year ago for fear of being scolded by his father. During the conversation, the child mentioned his village and his mother’s name. I interrupted my journey and started searching for that child’s house. Eventually his mother was found. A year later, the mother was not happy about finding a lost son. He was from a poor family, so we helped the child in his studies. Today that child is a software engineer. There are so many children in the country who need your help. Every child has talent, we have to help them.
Poverty will be away from education
I do not claim that I will eradicate the poverty of the country. I am just making a small effort. I am not working for any honor or award. If I could help some people in my lifetime, I would be satisfied that I contributed something to the society. There are many problems in the country. There is a need to work in all areas like education, health, poverty, rural development. All problems are interlinked somewhere. Education is most important. Education can be helpful in removing many problems. We can work towards eradicating poverty through education. One more thing, which my own experience has taught me, is that if you want to help people, just giving money is not enough. We should also see if our help is reaching the right people.