Philanthropy doesn’t mean money, says Sudha Murty

The year’s much-awaited publishing event organised by Penguin Random House India, The Penguin Annual Lecture, concluded on 12 December with a standing ovation for the acclaimed writer and philanthropist Sudha Murty, who delivered the lecture this year and spoke on ‘Storytelling and social change: how literature influences who we are and what we do’.

18 Dec 2019 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Sudha Murty delivering the lecture at The Penguin Annual Lecture 2019

At this evening of stories, with over 400 guests in attendance, Sudha Murty shared many personal experiences and anecdotes from her life. Her well-timed thirty-minute speech focused on two of her passions — storytelling and social work. The quotable author, once again, enamoured the crowd with her one-liners, both thoughtful and witty, such as ‘Philanthropy is my main food, writing is my pickle’ or ‘I am a very ordinary person. My experiences are extraordinary’. She inspired the gathering with simple yet effective narratives that got the message home. “Philanthropy has nothing to do with money. It’s a warm hug, a kind word . . . that can change lives. It’s about helping fellow human beings,” she said.

Referencing many examples of humans helping one another, Murty explained how it is possible for anyone, with or without money, to become a philanthropist. She elucidated how many of her experiences as the chairperson of Infosys Foundation resulted in books that went on to not only inspire people but also became a part of their school curriculum and eventually a part of their lives.

Niti Kumar, senior vice president, marketing, digital and communications, Penguin Random House India, who opened the lecture, said, “Sudha Murty is a master storyteller and once again she proved that simplicity and honesty are precious virtues that will always be rewarded. It is an honour that she was a part of the Penguin Annual Lecture 2019 and has given our publishing house the opportunity to take her stories far and wide.”

The second part of the programme had author Shashi Tharoor in conversation with Murthy. The politician, author and wordsmith lit up the room with an exciting and candid conversation with Murty about the many aspects of writing — from writing styles to writing habits and choosing themes and much more. He also moderated questions coming from the crowd. When asked about her favourite film personalities, Murty, a film buff, told the audience how popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana is her current favourite. One member of the audience also asked her if she believed Indians were stingy and therefore not considered global philanthropists. She went to explain how money cannot define philanthropy but intent can, how our legacy of giving back to the society helms from always being helpful to the needy, in whichever way possible.

The Penguin Annual Lecture is open to all and is considered one of the most prestigious publishing events. Year on year, the lecture has featured some of the greatest thought leaders from across genres. Luminaries who have delivered the lecture include journalist and writer Thomas Friedman in 2007; diplomat and writer Chris Patten in 2008; Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen in 2009; eminent historian Ramachandra Guha in 2010; renowned spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2011; Bharat Ratna awardee scientist and former president of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 2012; superstar and cultural icon Amitabh Bachchan in 2013; bestselling author Dan Brown in 2014; legendary writer Ruskin Bond in 2015; author of the wildly popular Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney, in 2016; and UNICEF Ambassador and superstar Priyanka Chopra in 2017.