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Sudha Murty Shows Us What’s Inside Nalini’s lunchbox!

In the heartwarming world of Common yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty, we encounter the extraordinary story of Nalini Kulkarni, affectionately known as ‘Lunchbox Nalini.’ Meet the lady whose love for food and friendship created extraordinary connections through her cherished lunchbox. Get ready for a heartwarming journey where the ordinary becomes extraordinary!


Common yet Uncommon
Common Yet Uncommon | Sudha Murty


I am Nalini Kulkarni. As a child, elders called me Nali – a typical shortening of the name in North Karnataka, where Anand becomes Andya. And Mandakini becomes Mandi. No wonder Nalini to Nali was so easy. 


Until now, I have peeped in at everyone’s life and written about their characters. Now let me talk about myself–the best way to joke is not on someone else’s expense but on your own.  


As I go about observing everyone’s habits and characteristics, I don’t get time to cook. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat. I am very fond of eating. If someone calls me for lunch, I not only attend but also carry my lunch box to carry some food back for my dinner. Whenever I go to any function, all my relatives, without greeting me, say, ‘Nalini, fill up  your lunchbox first. Then you will be at peace and we can talk at  leisure.’ That’s why I am known as Lunchbox Nalini. 


A few days ago, my cousin, Venkat, had his child’s naming ceremony. Venkat’s wife Veena formally invited me, saying, ‘We will be very happy if you come for the naming ceremony. If you don’t have time for lunch, at least visit us for  half an hour.’ 


I laughed and said, ‘Don’t you remember what they call me? I always come for the meal more than the event. I’ll be honest with you. If you tell me to come for the event without a lunch, then I’m sure that only three people will be there for the naming ceremony – you, your husband, and your little bundle of joy.’ 


Everyone laughed at my comment. Bundle Bindu, who was sitting there commented about hospitality about different regions. 


“I know.. Some people’s hospitality is bare minimum unlike north Karnatka. Because, historically…’ 


I told Bindu, stop it.  


He ignored me and continued. 


“Recently I had been to someone’s house. He said, “Wait a minute. I wWill have tea and come..I said I will also come and join you for tea.” 


“Bindu, you are shameless”, I said. 


But by and large, when you invite people, you should do it whole heartedly. The person should feel welcomed. 


I turned to Venkat and said, ‘I will come for the function in the morning as I have recently joined as a college lecturer. I will leave my lunchbox there and pick it up on the way back after my classes are over. I won’t be able to make it for lunch but I can eat it at home, at least.’ 


‘There can be no one like you,’ said Jayant. 


I take my lunchbox along with me to a function if I know the family hosting the event very well. I have many varieties of lunch boxes—unbreakable, Tupperware, hot cases, transparent ones. Because they are useful for various dishes—and depending on the circumstance, I change the boxes. For gravies. Tupperware is better. For roti and poli, hot case is better. For pickles, unbreakable is better and transparent because it is easier to identify what is inside. 


I am very fond of lunchboxes. In fact, I am an expert. My refrigerator is filled with different kinds of boxes with food given to me from different homes. I can recognize different boxes from different places even when am asleep. Mulla’s wife Peerambi’s box is yellow in color, though it is green inside. Virurupaksha’s Gowda’s wife Basavaa’s dabba is made of german steel. It is round and is currently sitting in my fridge with some brinjal. Bhagirati’s plastic green box has yellow laddoos inside. Jayant’s transparent box has golgappas.  


The other day, I was eating dinner. I told my daughter, ‘There is a gulab jamoon from Janaki’s home. Though her tongue is bitter, her gulab jamuns are excellent.’ 


My daughter was confused. ‘How do I know which is her box of gulab jamun? There are so many lunch boxes in the refrigerator.’ 


‘Oh, bring the one with the dome-like structure,’ I responded easily. ‘I didn’t have a box with me that day, so she had given in hers.’ 


While having the gulab jamun, , I remembered the dry vegetable. ‘Will you open the fridge and get the plastic box with flat red cover? That is from Ganga’s home. Some marriage proposal had come and the boy had visited Ganga’s home so she had specially made a vegetable for the boy that she also sent to me.’ 


The other day, Bundle Bindu came with a huge box. His wife saraswati was out of station. I opened it and to my surprise, there was a steamed sweet dish inside. It is complicated to make, though grandmother was particularly good at it. I asked, ‘Bindu, when Saraswati is not there, how could you cook this special dish?’ 


Bindu laughed and said, ‘Who said that I have made this? There is a famous saying – When two people are fighting, it is the third one that enjoys.’ 


‘What do you mean?’ 


Bindu said, ‘Suman has sent rice kheer and her mother-in-law has sent bottle guard kheer. They felt that you are the best judge to decide who is the better cook because you are known for tasting dishes They called me separately and gave me these two boxes. You eat and enjoy. Both want you to take their side.’ 


‘Bindu, in that case, I will taste neither of them’ I said immediately. 


‘Nali, please be diplomatic. You can say both are very good, but separately. Then you will have an advantage,’ said Jayant who always thinks of profit and loss. 


‘No, Jayant. I don’t want to do that. Profit and loss are okay in business but not in human interaction. All these people are dear to me. Whenever they make something special, they send some to my home even if I don’t visit their house. I carry my lunchbox only to places where I have liberty and affection If I really want to eat, there are many restaurants in this townFor me, a lunch box is not a mere lunchbox. It is a bridge between two people. I go to their home, or they send me some food. I go to return the box.  Thus, we share feelings and give company to each other. In case any of us are in difficulty, we reduce our tensions. The lunchboxes are nothing but a sign of affection, and it is through them that I have been able to meet people and form a close bond with them over the years. It has been my educational journey into the nature of humanity. 


 I don’t want to get into the competition between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law or create more distance between them. If somebody wants to start a fight, I don’t want to be a party to that.’ 


Bindu laughed and said, ‘And I know how you love food too! 


I smiled back. 


 ‘O Nali, you are a typical north Karnataka girl’ said Bindu. 


‘What do you mean by that?’ I was surprised by his comment. 


‘Straightforward, transparent, loving, sharing, impractical, talkative, – that is the essence that the land blesses us with.’ 



Intrigued to know more about Nali and her lunchbox?
Get your copy of Common Yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty wherever books are sold.

Sudha Murty’s Gift of Stories for Every Reader!

Today we celebrate 73 years of the iconic Sudha Murty, India’s beloved author, whose stories have touched hearts far and wide. This collection brings together her illustrious tales filled with characters that feel like friends and lessons that linger long after the pages are turned. So whether you’re new to her work or a dedicated reader, gear up to discover the magic of Sudha Murty’s storytelling and become part of her enchanting universe.

My First Sudha Murty Collection: A Set of 4 Chapter Books
My First Sudha Murty Collection: A Set of 4 Chapter Books || Sudha Murty

From India’s favourite writer comes a curated collection of 4 heartwarming stories packaged as charming chapter books. Each book offers a splendid introduction to Sudha Murty’s world through captivating illustrations, endearing characters and deliciously written tales in her unique style.

Magical, beautiful and full of wonder this boxset is a perfect gift for beginners.


Unusual Tales from Indian Mythology Boxset
Unusual Tales from Indian Mythology Boxset || Sudha Murty

his gift edition features the greatest mythological stories retold by India’ favourite author Sudha Murty. Filled with innumerable unusual legends of powerful gods and demons, alluring creatures and feisty women, the books in this collection are packed with arresting illustrations, captivating characters and magical worlds to keep every reader hooked. Read these enchanting narratives that will transport you to another time and fill you with a sense of wonder.


The Magic of the Lost Story
The Magic of the Lost Story || Sudha Murty

Written in India’s favourite storyteller’s inimitable style, The Magic of the Lost Story captures the value of asking questions and keeping the answers alive. Packed with delightful artworks and wondrous terrains, this story takes you on an unforgettable journey as it follows the magnificent Tungabhadra River.


How the Mango got its Magic
How the Mango got its Magic || Sudha Murty

We all love the sweetness of mango and how it quenches our thirst on a hot summer day, but have you ever wondered how the mango got its magical sweetness?

The tale of how such sweetness came into existence is a fascinating one indeed. India’s favourite storyteller brings alive this delightlful tale with her inimitable wit and simplicity. Bursting with captivating illustrations, this gorgeous chapter book is the ideal introduction for beginners to the world of Sudha Murty.

How the Sea Became Salty
How the Sea Became Salty || Sudha Murty

A long, long time ago, seawater was sweet and drinkable. How it became salty is a remarkable story.

India’s favourite storyteller brings alive this timeless tale with her inimitable wit and simplicity. Dotted with charming illustrations, this gorgeous chapter book is the ideal introduction for beginners to the world of Sudha Murty.



My First Sudha Murty Collection: A Set of 4 Chapter Books
The Sage with Two Horns || Sudha Murty

From quarrels among gods and the follies of great sages to the benevolence of kings and the virtues of ordinary mortals, Sudha Murty spins fresh accounts of lesser-known stories in Indian mythology. Accompanied by fantastical illustrations and narrated in an unassuming fashion, The Sage with Two Horns is sure to delight fans of the beloved storyteller.



How the Earth Got Its Beauty
How the Earth Got Its Beauty || Sudha Murty

Have you ever stopped to marvel at the earth’s beauty: at snow-capped mountains and oceans so deep; at colourful flowers and extraordinary animals? The tale of how such beauty came into existence is a curious one indeed.
India’s favourite storyteller brings alive this timeless tale with her inimitable wit and simplicity. Tricked out with enchanting illustrations, this gorgeous chapter book is the ideal introduction for beginners to the world of Sudha Murty.


Grandparents’ Bag of Stories
Grandparents’ Bag of Stories || Sudha Murty

Following the trail of the best-selling Grandma’s Bag of Stories, India’s favourite author Sudha Murty brings to you this collection of immortal tales that she fondly created during the lockdown period for readers to seek comfort and find the magic in sharing and caring for others. Wonderfully woven in her inimitable style, this book is unputdownable and perfect for every child’s bookshelf!


Penguin 35 Collectors Edition: Three Thousand Stitches
Three Thousand Stitches|| Sudha Murty

So often, it’s the simplest acts of courage that touch the lives of others. Sudha Murty-through the exceptional work of the Infosys Foundation as well as through her own youth, family life and travels-encounters many such stories . . . and she tells them here in her characteristically clear-eyed, warm-hearted way. She talks candidly about the meaningful impact of her work in the devadasi community, her trials and tribulations as the only female student in her engineering college and the unexpected and inspiring consequences of her father’s kindness. From the quiet joy of discovering the reach of Indian cinema and the origins of Indian vegetables to the shallowness of judging others based on appearances, these are everyday struggles and victories, large and small.


The Mother I Never Knew
The Mother I Never Knew || Sudha Murty

Sudha Murty’s The Mother I Never Knew comprises two novellas that explore two quests by two different men—both for mothers they never knew they had.
Venkatesh, a bank manager, stumbles upon his lookalike one fine day. When he probes further, he discovers his father’s hidden past, which includes an abandoned wife and child. Ventakesh is determined to make amends to his impoverished stepmother—but how can he repay his father’s debt?
Mukesh, a young man, is shocked to realize after his father’s death that he was actually adopted. He sets out to find his biological mother, but the deeper he delves, the more confused he is about where his loyalties should lie: with the mother who gave birth to him, or with the mother who brought him up.
The Mother I Never Knew is a poignant, dramatic book that reaches deep into the human heart to reveal what we really feel about those closest to us.


The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk
The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk || Sudha Murty

Over the years, Sudha Murty has come across some fascinating people whose lives make for interesting stories and have astonishing lessons to reveal. Take Vishnu, who achieves every material success but never knows happiness; or Venkat, who talks so much that he has no time to listen. In other stories, a young girl goes on a train journey that changes her life forever; an impoverished village woman provides bathing water to hundreds of people in a drought-stricken area; a do-gooder ghost decides to teach a disconsolate young man Sanskrit; and in the title story, a woman in a flooded village in Odisha teaches the author a life lesson she will never forget.


Here, There and Everywhere
Here, There and Everywhere || Sudha Murty

Wearer of many hats-philanthropist, entrepreneur, computer scientist, engineer, teacher-Sudha Murty has above all always been a storyteller extraordinaire. Winner of the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature, the Padma Shri, the Attimabbe Award from the government of Karnataka for excellence in Kannada literature, and the Raymond Crossword Lifetime Achievement Award, her repertoire includes adult non-fiction, adult fiction, children’s books, travelogues and technical books. Here, There and Everywhere is a celebration of her literary journey and is her 200th title across genres and languages. Bringing together her best-loved stories from various collections alongside some new ones and a thoughtful introduction, here is a book that is, in every sense, as multifaceted as its author.


Wise & Otherwise
Wise & Otherwise || Sudha Murty

First published in 2002, Wise and Otherwise has sold over 30,000 copies in English and has been translated into all the major Indian languages. This revised new edition is sure to charm many more readers and encourage them to explore their inner selves and the PBI – World around us with new eyes.



Common Yet Uncommon
Common Yet Uncommon || Sudha Murty

Written in Sudha Murty’s inimitable style, Common Yet Uncommon is a heartwarming picture of everyday life and the foibles and quirks of ordinary people. In the fourteen tales that make up the collection, Sudha Murty delves into memories of childhood, life in her hometown and the people she’s crossed paths with. These and the other characters who populate the pages of this book do not possess wealth or fame. They are unpolished and outspoken, transparent and magnanimous.
Their stories are tales of unvarnished humans, with faults and big hearts.

Testament to the unique parlance of a small town, Common Yet Uncommon speaks a universal language of what it means to be human.

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