The book, ‘Three Thousand Stitches’ is much like its title – a couple of events of the same canvas (read Sudha Murty’s life), each adding some value to the canvas that it has helped weave and in the end, giving a texture that is fine and coarse, in parts.
Snippets from the journey traversed by the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, is scattered across 11 stories, each having a message or two to give. The titular story, which is also the opening one, is about the lives of devadasis, or sex workers as they ended up being called by, in northern belt of Karnataka, who became the first subject of work for the young Sudha.
Young girls were initially dedicated to the worship and service of a deity or a temple in good faith, but eventually, the word devadasi became synonymous with sex worker. Some were born into the life, while others were ‘sacrificed’ to the temples by their parents due to various reasons, or simply because they caught a hair infection like the ringworm of the scalp, assumed to be indicative that the girl was destined to be a ‘devadasi’.
A heartwarming story, of her humiliation, her ouster and ultimately, her acceptance among these oppressed and violated women, is one of the highpoints of this collection. Equally numbing is the instance she recollects from her father’s young days as a doctor, whose one deed of duty and kindness, returns with life-altering interest many years hence. The full circle of life, and its latent gifts, comes to fore with these two lovely stories.
While in another of the stories, Murty takes a road down the memory lane, fondly remembering the testing, albeit enriching days, of her engineering college where she was the only female student of her batch, in yet another, she fast forwards to the present day where she is appalled and amused, in equal parts, at being judged by her attire and being anointed to a ‘cattle class’ by a fellow traveller at the Heathrow Airport.
The stories are mostly warm and simple; and in turn, trigger slivers of thought as she broaches the issues of alcoholism, conservatism, exploitation and discrimination. From being a little girl to being a grandmother, from being a naiveté to a professional achiever, she chronicles her trials and travails, and offers advice, sometimes way too bluntly and sometimes, in garbs of conversation. One is likely to learn something new, like the origin of indigenous vegetables, and frown at her firm assumptions, especially in relation to long-standing traditions and religious tenets. The writing, though, aids the reading and the unvarnished prose tempted me to finish this book in one go. A good read, with plenty to chew and some humor to ease the occasional tension.
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