Sudha Murthy: Impressive speeches simplified!

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murthy may look like the granny-next-door but unlike most grans, she knows how to enthrall a crowd. For the uninitiated, Mrs Murthy is a noted Indian author, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and the wife of Narayan Murthy. I had the opportunity to witness her at her enthusiastic best, when she was the chief guest for the Economist Crossword Book Awards, at Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai on Thursday evening.
Watching Sudha infuse life into a packed Tata Theatre, I realised that there are two types of speakers. The first type is very well spoken and can write impressive speeches. But all they can do is recite the speech and only a small percentage of the audience will probably remember what they said. The second variety has the audience wrapped around their finger in a matter of seconds. Even if what they are saying is not of national importance, you will hang on to their every word and pass on what you understood to people you meet for one full week.

Mrs Murthy falls in the second category of speakers.

Simply dressed in a beige sari, the pallu wrapped firmly around her shoulders, Mrs Murthy flashed a 100 watt smile as soon as she took to the microphone. Like a pro and a true sport she admitted that being a chief guest was easier than being a judge, as all she had to do was attend the function and distribute prizes, unlike the judges who had to read through 350 odd books in all. An author herself, Mrs Murthy went on to give a glimpse into what kindled her love for books. “When I was a kid, my father would always tell me to treats books like humans – don’t step on them, keep them in a comfortable environment, cover them, care for them…”

An unassuming air about herself, blended with self-assurance and the right amounts of humility and wit, Mrs Murthy, winner of the Padma Shri and RK Narayana’s award for literature, said that being a writer was very important to her because it gave her an individual identity. “Being Narayan Murthy’s wife, I may get a few extra shares in Infosys, but being a writer is independent of whose wife, mother, daughter or sister I am and that is sacred to me,” she said as the audience reacted with a thunderous applause. The cheer said that they couldn’t agree more with what she just said.

A combination of simple words, clear speech, ability to laugh at oneself, a pinch of self-assured goofiness and wit is probably makes for a good speaker and Sudha Murthy demonstrated that to a packed Tata Theatre at the awards. Other eminent personalities, with better diction and vocabulary addressed the audience at the awards, but it is only Mrs Murthy’s words that I still remember!

Designer Rahul Mishra speaks his heart out on grabbing eyeballs with his new collection, the fashion fraternity in the country and on planning a family with wife Divya soon

Rahul Mishra’s version of the Indian sari at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, Spring Summer 2013

Top designers from the fraternity attended your show this time at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week 2013. What was your reaction?
Rahul: I was amazed! Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Bal, Rohit Gandhi, Rakesh Thakore — it was a humbling moment for me. Honestly, I’ve never even spoken to Rohit Bal before, we rarely bump into each other because I am Mumbai based and he is from Delhi. But he made time to watch my show! David Abraham messaged me that he hoped the show would begin a bit late, because he was stuck in a jam and wanted to make it for my show. These are the biggest compliments of the season for me (laughs). My friends who were in the audience tell me that these esteemed designers had good things to say about my collection too. All this makes the struggle in the industry worth while. A lot of fashion editors also praised the line…
Tell us about your new line…
Rahul: The collection is inspired from 2013, the age of Mother Earth. The idea was to look at how consumerism is depleting our resources. We are trying to make more houses and products and end up taking a lot from mother nature in the process. We have to slow down the process… and that’s where the concept of slow fashion was born in my head. The line has handmade fabrics, cotton. I used khadi, one of the oldest fabrics and put modern graphics on them, the kind that will remain stylish in 2012 and 2020 also. The thought behind such futuristic silhouettes was to promote mutual coexistence. I believe that this era is about that, we may make sky scrapers but we have make them green and in a way that it helps conserve energy. The collection has that synergy. At the same time it has drama too.

Not too long ago, you were a rank newcomer in the fashion industry. How do you think the fashion industry in India treats newbies?
Rahul: I feel that our industry is the best for newcomers. If u have talent, you will get all the support required. Every industry has good and bad people and murky politics. But the good part about the fashion industry is that it is full of artists, they are bound to have good in them (laughs). Insecurities may crop up occasionally, but this industry definitely greets new designers with open arms.

Indian model Alesia Raut walks the ramp for Rahul Mishra’s show at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, Spring Summer 2013

Your wife Divya often models for your clothes. What does she get in return, a few free dresses at least?
Rahul: Hahahaaa. My entire office is open for her. She can take whatever she likes. Divya is the best muse and a very simple person. I get very emotional whenever I speak about her, she never demands anything from me, except for spending quality time together. She’s so content about everything.
Your line spoke about slow fashion. When are you planning to slow down…
Rahul: Very soon. Fingers crossed, we’re thinking of starting a family, probably next year.

Most couples don’t like to work with each other, least spending too much time takes a toll on their relationship. Have you felt that way too?
Rahul: I think if you are passionate about something, it adds to the relationship instead of taking away from it. Divya is an amazing designer, I’d say even better than me. Looking us work together backstage, someone once commented that he was reminded of the camaraderie that Rajesh Pratap Singh and his stunning and super-talented wife Payal share, and they always worked together. I don’t mean to compare myself to them, but I guess there are couples who are exceptions to the rule… 🙂
Touch Wood.

LOVE STRUCK: Rahul Mishra with wife Divya