Book Critique - Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: An anecdotal list of her life activities and the impact they had on her, Sudha Murthy takes the reader on a spiritual and thought provoking journey that makes them reflect on their own lives as well. It is more than what it seems, certainly thousand stitches in one's life. 

Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives is a collection of true short stories by Sudha Murthy first published in January of 2015. The author gives us tales of simple people that either touch her life or she had touched to make a difference.

I have no idea how this book entered into my library. It wouldn’t be in my library unless I bought it, or someone gifted it to me (there was no inscription inside), or someone must have loaned it to me. I hope to god it isn't the last option cause it would be really embarrassing to have kept someone's book for so long and haven't returned it. In any case, I couldn’t figure out who recommended the book to me or how it has come to be in my possession. I did find it a very thought provoking book though.

There are elven short stories in the book, every single one of them from Mrs. Murthy's personal life. Each story reveals something that makes you want to pause and think twice before going further. Also we see first hand how each of the stories shaped or changed her own life as well.

Sudha Murthy is an Indian author who is also a philanthropist, active social worker, and the first female engineer to be hired by TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company. She opened a path for all the women after her who could go on and become engineers as opposed to teachers and nurses or housewives. She is also chairperson of Infosys and wife of co-founder of Infosys, N. R. Narayana Murthy. She is also the chairperson of Infosys Foundation, a non-profit organization helping the down and needy.

Through her stories, Mrs. Murthy walks us through the various efforts she and her foundation has taken up in addressing several social issues in India such as devadasi system; body shopping by various agents to recruit workers to work in foreign countries and the hardships those people face; awareness to get the rivers of India cleaned; need for rehab of anykind and the importance to support it.

Her life wasn’t a cake walk despite the tremendous support she received from her forward thinking father. She clearly reveals that in the hardships she faced as being the only girl student in an engineering college, problems which would have been termed bullying in the current world. And she also brings forth the "Cattle-Class" mentality and how she tackles it. 

All of her stories are not around the social evils or the grim side of humanity. She does educate us about the history and origin of various spices, veggies and fruit that are commonly thought have been from India. She also touches upon the impact of Bollywood, the history of theater work, and how she found the presence of Bollywood in every corner of the world she went. I can relate to this part of her experience very much.

Not all of it were her own experiences, there were stories from her father; stories from others that inspired to further herself in philanthropy and social work she has been doing. And some stories actually make her take a step back on how the young generation of Indians who are settled across various countries in the world perceive the traditions and culture of India. 

Though the book sounds anecdotal listing out of Mrs. Murthy's life experiences, and may feel like there is nothing to take away from it or a beginning and end that a normal novel might have. However, one need to remember that this is not a novel, but a collection of experiences that the author had in her life.

The account of these experiences definitely made me think; made me understand what her goal was; why she took a particular path; and what made her make a certain decision in her life. I am sure we all have our own significant events in life that contributed to lead us to where we are now. The whole book made me think back on my own life as well.

More importantly what I have done with it; how I fared with my ups and downs; what decisions took to me where I am now; and what experiences made me what I am today' and also what regrets I still think of. This book got me to do my own self exploration and evaluation. That is what I take back from this book. Made me remind me of the 1988 book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and how it left me in the end after reading that book. 

An anecdotal list of her life activities and the impact they had on her, Sudha Murthy takes the reader on a spiritual and thought provoking journey that makes them reflect on their own lives as well. It is more than what it seems, certainly thousand stitches in one's life. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. The author Sudha Murthy refers to a few works in literature, media and music in her book - Hiuen Tsang's Si-Yu-Ki; Banaras: City of Light by Diana L. Eck.

b. Mrs. Murthy talks about an event called Kashi Samaradhane which she had attended with her grandmother as a child. It is a celebration of someone who returns from visiting Kashi aka Banaras, since that entire journey was really hard until recent past.

c. I vaguely remember my maternal grandparents doing such a trip to Kashi in the early 80s and we had a huge celebration after they came back. When I spoke to my mom about it she mentioned that my grandparents did something called a Sampoorna Theerthayatra (= Complete Holy Places Trip), once visiting all the major temples in the north and once in the south. When they did the northern tour and came back, I am told that they were taken directly to the local temple, they slept there that night, and then the next ay after showers and pooja in the temple they were brought to their home with a procession. And then a day or two later we had some more festivities that were shared with all family and friends.

d. That is when I remembered that my parents also did a trip to Banaras some five or 6 years ago. They spent 15 days in Banaras visiting small towns around. I never remembered this Kashi Samaradhane or Theertha Pooja as we call it, being done before. So we never did the same for my parents too. In fact me and my brothers were all in US when my parents did their trip to Banaras. I wish I had known about this festivities after returning from Kashi. I would definitely have done for them too. 

e. During her recanting of Bollywood experience all over the world, she comes across interesting drinks named after some of the famous stars - Piggy Chops, a drink named after Priyanka Chopra that can be ordered at Milk Bar, in West Hollywood; Mallika Shake after Mallika Sherawat. 

2. Sub- Plots:

a. The account of Kashi Samaradhane in the chapter "Three Handfuls of Water" reminded me that I have this place to visit in my bucket list too. Wishing the Covid-19 pandemic goes away quickly so I can go. I still cant believe what Mrs. Murthy gave up in Kashi, what she detached herself from. That was very courageous of her.

b. One of the patient that Sudha Murthy's father saves, opens up a nursing home along with her daughter and makes it R.H. Diagnostic. In honor of her father, Dr. R. H. Kulkarni.

c. Infosys Foundation building is called as "Neralu" which literary means shelter.


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