Book review: Adithi Rao’s book ‘Being Sheela’, chronicles the life of Indian American trailblazer Sheela Murthy.
By Sandy Liotta
Being Sheela quickly corrals the reader into caring and rooting for the accomplished attorney who is foremost “instinctively and unselfconsciously kind to others.” Author Adithi Rao injects us with very little preamble straight into the heart of the action, adroitly blending real case studies with significant moments from Sheela Murthy’s life to reveal her values and her motivations.
With lines such as “her clarity and energy proved infectious” and “she was incapable of doing things in half measure and that included eating Samosas! “We are firmly hooked by the personal and human rendering of this larger than life persona. This is an affectionate and admiring memoir written also with the reporter’s instinct to cover varied perspectives.
We hear the stories of clients who “were often troubled, tired, sad or desperate and at time all those things at once.” We read that Sheela’s instincts to do the right thing and the fair thing were honed by navigating childhood between an adoring father and a strict mother. We learn that at age 10, after surviving a major illness, Sheela vowed to “overcome insurmountable obstacles by simply never letting anything get her down.”
Copies of the book can be obtained from https://murthynayak.org/book-being-sheela
From her 2nd year law professor, we hear that he had never before had a student with Sheela’s “tireless determination, enthusiasm or the commitment to win” an all-India Moot Court competition. The 10-year-old went from being inspired to fight injustice as an attorney after reading To Kill a Mockingbird to placing second as a 24-year-old in International Moot Court competition in only her second attempt. We meet and are captivated by the “happy-hearted girl who said what she thought and almost always had something meaningful to say” and who had the smarts and the drive to graduate with a Masters in Law from Harvard.
Beyond inspiration from reading of her “courage and a fierce ability to love beyond her own limitations that set her apart from every other child,” Sheela’s life journey and the book also offer practical lessons written with a light touch and universal appeal. From Sheela’s humble beginnings in India sharing a rag doll with her two sisters to powerhouse attorney and heavyweight philanthropist in the US, author Rao uses Sheela’s own experiences and hard-earned knowledge to illustrate best practices easily applicable to entrepreneurs, to leaders and managers, to women in abusive situations, to those ensnared in partisan politics, to those wrestling with ethics versus quick results and to immigrants caught between “the reality of being an immigrant in the US and the common perspective that people have of them.”
I encourage everyone to enjoy this warm, satisfying and fortifying memoir, perhaps with a steaming cup of fragrant tea in hand, a connection to the many cups of tea dispensed in the book along with the memorable and inspirational stories!