Wise and Otherwise: A Salute to Life is a collection of fifty one short stories baed on the real life experiences of Mrs Sudha Murthy. As the Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, she has come across many types of people in her office as well as while travelling during the course of her work. Each story covers a facet of human nature and has something to tell. Her dedication states “For the ‘shirtless people of India’ who have taught me so much about my country”.
Her stories cover the length and breadth of India and she has stories about various types of characters like the honest college student, who despite being poor returned the unspent money that he received for his hostel accommodation. There is a story about a man who lies while trying to impress her and another one about an old man in the Sahyadri forest who tells her, “There is a grace in accepting also”. The story about the young nurse who followed her teacher’s words and about an old man in Kalahandi district of Orissa who does not know that India is now a free country but says, “This little paper (Indian currency) can turn our lives upside down”. She mentions about two teenagers she had met on the flight from Delhi to Bangalore who did not know our history (we should blame ourselves for it), about her friend who takes life in a positive way after she sees a beggar dancing in the rain and there is this story about a man who lies that he knows her in order to sell books to the Foundation.
In one story, she mentions about a salesgirl she meets in a train, who first gives her a headache and then sells her the balm. In another, she talks about a mother who is praying that her stove burst victim daughter dies. She talks about her friend who succeeds in life because she is a realist. About a poor, old lady who shows her gratitude to Mrs Murthy for giving them a hospital by giving a string of jasmine. There is story in which she talks about a man who leaves his own father in an old age home claiming that the he is a homeless man who needs help and comes to claim the money when he dies.
She brought tears to my eyes when she talked about Zubeida, who tells her brother to return the unspent money allotted for her cancer treatment. She has written about a boy who marries a girl suffering from leucoderma after reading her book, Mahashweta. In another story, she has mentioned about insensitive people who can spend on their housewarming but not for the victims of Gujarat earthquake.
She talks about her teacher who said that, “the greatest joy to a teacher is to produce students better than him”. About an uneducated lady who sees the positive side of life and stays happy, and there is another one in which a shopkeeper adjusting the price of his wares as per the financial status of the customer. She also mentions about a lady who asks her who her ghost writer is. She talks about the facilities for women in Stockholm, about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize and about the plight of unwed mothers in India and abroad.
She writes about the misuse of the telephone by the kids, about the biased nature of a lady when it concerns her daughter and daughter in law, about how people took advantage of an earthquake to set up house, about how a poor fisher boy contributes whatever he can for his family. She talks about how money can change the relationship between a husband and wife and about the different ways in which people look at life. In the last story she has mentioned about how different people express their gratitude; some say thank you and some do not even acknowledge you.
I liked the book very much. It is an eye-opener.
Book Source: Bought