Archive for the ‘The Anthem Row’ Category

CHURUMURI POLL: President Narayana Murthy?

17 October 2011

One day, last week, he was quoted as saying that “it would be a great honour to be the next president of the country” if all political parties agreed to his candidature. The very next day he was quoted as saying that “he had no presidential ambitions whatsoever” and that words had been put into his mouth.

On other days, of course….

Is N.R. Narayana Murthy indulging in a bit of kite-flying or does the Infosys co-founder and chairman-emeritus still have the political and popular cache to be the Rashtrapati? Is there likely to be a consensus on the presidential candidate, as Murthy desires, or is it too fanciful a dream in the current surcharged atmosphere?

Should a corporate honcho, who once expressed interest in becoming the Indian ambassador to the United States, become President of the world’s most populous democracy? Or will his attempts at reviving the pro-capitalist Swatantra Party and his stand on the national anthem and subsidiary Freudian slip-ups go against him?

And if it isn’t NRN, who should it be?

Also read: Cho Ramaswamy on Narayana Murthy as president

Has Narayana Murthy bid goodbye to dream of public office?

Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President

CHURUMURI IMPACT: Kiran Mazumdar responds

9 June 2007

Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has responded to‘s post on her comments on Kannada writer and intellectual, U.R. Anantha Murthy. Below is the full text of her clarification.



I am really shocked at the way my comments have been misrepresented. I have great admiration for writers, artists and other intellectuals. I admire U.R. Anantha Murthy for his literary contributions and achievements.

What I am questioning is why someone like him is launching this tirade against N.R. Narayana Murthy which has even led to legal proceedings. If this is not politicising a small issue that does not warrant such action, then what is it?

By the way I read and write Kannada! I am a proud Bangalorean and a Kannadiga by choice. I have supported many an upcoming Kannada artist from rural Karnataka. I have participated on many social issues that plague our State and city.

What saddens me is the way we have become intolerant of anything and everything.

We need to recognize people like Narayana Murthy for what he has done to provide economic freedom to thousands of lower and middle class families; not crucify him and call him unpatriotic and even have the disrespect to ask him to leave Karnataka. That is why I have strongly reacted to my views on the subject.

I hope I have clarified my stand. The comments of your readers pain me.


Kiran Mazumdar


Related link: “Who’s Anantha Murthy? What’s his contribution?”

‘Who’s Anantha Murthy? What’s his contribution?’

5 June 2007

The embers of the N.R. Narayana Murthy row over the national anthem are still smouldering. With the controversy virtually rendering the Infosys chief persona non grata among parties and politicians whose support was/is crucial to realising his putative presidential dreams, other Bangalore industry bosses are stepping in to do some damage-control.

Leading the late charge is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. The Biocon chief has mounted a quite breathtaking attack on the Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy in today’s Praja Vani. Speaking to some journalists (the Praja Vani representative presuambly being one them) on the sidelines of a media conference to announce “Bangalore Bio-2007”, Kiran Mazumdar says:

“Who is Anantha Murthy to criticise Narayana Murthy? What has he done for the State? Besides waxing eloquent about literature, what is his achievement? Why do you pull down those who have climbed up the ladder with their own talents and hard work?”

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is entitled to her views on Anantha Murthy, of course, just as he is entitled to his views on her (or Narayana Murthy). Nevertheless, the contemptuous tone and tenor of Kiran Mazumdar’s rant against intellectual activity is revealing of the strange hubris that afflicts the Indian corporate nouveau riche.

“We (industrialists and entrepreneurs) are striving to enhance wealth in the country. We are creating jobs. We are adding to the foreign exchange reserves. We are carrying India’s prestige to far corners of the globe. Despite all this, why this intolerance towards us?

“Look at how we have grown. Why do you think all this has been attained through illegal means? Instead of looking at what we are today, you should see how this has been achieved through our sweat, blood and tears. Is it so easy to start with nothing and reach where we have?”

No sane person would find fault with much of that, but can a person’s contribution to society be looked at through the prism of money alone? Merely because a person has generated jobs or added to the forex reserves or provided a brand-name to a city, are we to overlook even their worst excesses, howsoever obvious?

Do we forfeit our right to ask, examine, inspect, question, criticise, scrutinise because we haven’t created jobs or wealth or got our passports stamped in various ports of call?

We may be wrong, but we have an unalienable right to be wrong.

Notwithstanding the merits or demerits of Anantha Murthy’s criticism on NRN, surely Bangalore-born Kiran Mazumdar can’t be unaware of Karnataka’s place in the world. Long before IT-BT carved its niche, Karnataka was known for its men of letters, five of them winning the nation’s highest literary award, the Jnanpith, Anantha Murthy being one of them.

Does learning, teaching, writing—thinking—for a living not count as a contribution?

Does intellectual thought, howsoever unreasonable or unpalatable, not matter?

Man does not live by bread alone, nor does society. But in not so much questioning Anantha Murthy’s contributions as questioning the activity of thinking, the biotech philistine proves that money can buy everything—except grey cells when you are greying.

By Kiran Mazumdar’s intellectually warped yardstick, writers don’t count, artistes don’t count, poets don’t count, architects don’t count, sociologists don’t count, philosophers don’t count, linguists don’t count, geographers don’t count, journalists don’t count… only industrialists and entrepreneurs with IPOs count. And the moment we see them, we should roll over, make way, and shut up.

How funny is that?

No wonder, Amartya Sen, not Dhirubhai Ambani, got the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Also read: U.R. Anantha Murthy on N.R. Narayana Murthy


Mohandas Pai on Narayana Murthy as President

3 May 2007

The debate over who should be the next President is gathering steam, and much to the annoyance of his drum-beaters, it appears it is not going to be A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The CPI(M)’s Gurudas Dasgupta says his party is against a second term for any President—a precedent not followed since Dr Rajendra Prasad—and the Congress’s Vasant Sathe believes that Kalam won’t stand again if there is no consensus.

Last night, on CNN-IBN‘s “Face the Nation” programme, the very loquacious human resources head of Infosys, T.V. Mohandas Pai, was produced as the non-political talking head on the show against the backdrop of his former boss and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy being in the race, and this is what he said.

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: As a non-politician, what is your view? Should the next President be a politician or someone like Abdul Kalam?

Mohandas Pai: We need to understand that we are possibly the youngest large nation. There are 650 million people below the age of 30. And across all these young peope, Kalam has connected very well. Young people see in Dr Kalam, their vision for the country. They connect with him, they get excited with him, they see him as a role model. Because of that he is the right person.

We need to understand that we need to be inclusive, we have to understand that we have to do something for young people. We have not taken care of young generations.

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: So, Mr Pai, I take it that you support President Kalam for a second term but not Narayana Murthy?

Mohandas Pai: I support Dr Kalam for the second term because he has been a wonderful President. I am not talking about Narayana Murthy at all.

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: Why not give a chance to someone else?

Mohandas Pai: Well, if you want to give a chance to somebody else you have to find a role model like Kalam who I think should connect with young people. Because young people make up the majority of this country and they need a role model…

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: Do you think caste, religion, geographical region, gender don’t matter as our politicians say?

Mohandas Pai: I think they should not matter. The most competent person should be President. We have Rajendra Babu, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: My question is not whether it should not matter. My question is, do you believe politicians who say these factors don’t matter?

Mohandas Pai: I think they do matter. Back of hand, it does matter. Every political party wants its nominee, whatever be the background, because the President has a lot of rights over everybody else. I think they do use that…

Nationalism is in the genes. Either you have it…

16 April 2007

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Catching up on Narayana Murthy’s ‘embarrassment’, after having been away from the Land of Churumuri for a while, I was wondering about the impossibly labyrinthine folds of the average Indian brain inside which lives, in some tiny corner, a subservient element, a type of worm that renders, at times, the whole being absolutely bereft of its own identity, in fact its very chromosomal stamp.

The mental subjugation that the average Indian inflicts upon himself when he sees white skin in his presence; the almost total surrender to the whims and fancies of the foreigner; the almost stupid grin, born of a complete lack of esteem in the self that issues forth from the face; the terrible urgency that is exhibited, to please, to impress, to cajole, to make the foreigner happy.

Traits that have perhaps got embedded in the collective psyche of the nation; a sad infusion of a variety of gene that makes us generally devoid of commanding our place under the sun for whatever we are worth.

A few hundred years of foreign rule, mainly British. A lack of cohesive thought in understanding the value of nationhood and its importance; a divided, divisive, estranged, shredded sense of personal identity which makes us all feel more parochial than Indian.

Perhaps what Narayana Murthy ended up saying the other day was a subtle manifestation of the terribly internal and severely deep waves of thought that cross the innermost crevices of the average Indian’s mind which flogs him to ‘please’ the foreigner.

A globe trotting torch bearer of all that meritocracy stands for, a die-hard votary of the free flow of talent and its worth in nation building, a creator of wealth, an advocate of the free spirit of enterprise, the iconic symbol of technocratic brilliance was seen, at least for a while, after all, as a man who was so keenly fond of making the white skin look a shade brighter!

Not for me what the venerable S. L. Bhyrappa had to say about the incident—that a mountain is being made out of a mole hill and that Murthy is no ordinary man to be ridiculed. Point noted.

Not for me what the slippery U.R. Anantha Murthy had to say about the issue; that it was simply a case of the wrong usage of the English language with the word ‘embarrassment’ coming into play. May be.

To me it is a simple question of being intensely, fundamentally, intrinsically, supremely and most vitally, inherently proud of the nation, from the very DNA of your being, to be in respectful awe of the motherland, to have the sensitivity of soul to be able to be moved and touched by the very thought of singing the national anthem, which, in my book, should be one of the most delicately orchestrated and most mellifluously crafted of them all; to be able to allow the mind to react in a manner that makes the hairs stand on end at the very first strains of the profound lyrics falling upon the ears.

Especially when you are the head honcho of an organization which is widely advertised, in the eyes of the wide world, as the nation’s greatest corporate prestige.

So what if the foreigners in the gathering that day did not know the lyrics of our anthem. They are not even expected to. Where was the question, even for a infinitesimal nano-second, that a thought should have been entertained in the mind that only the instrumental version of the anthem be played and not the great song sung full throatedly? To please the foreigners? Where was the need in the first place? Why?

Did Narayana Murthy forget for a moment, that he, and the rest of them were standing on Indian soil; in fact on the soil of good old Mysore, to which place he has more reasons to be grateful than others?

Well, as I said in the beginning, it’s all in the genes.


Humility’s like happiness. If we think we have it…

13 April 2007

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Along with all the positive media coverage that President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam‘s visit to Mysore got, we also got, a glimpse of the unfortunate controversy generated by the rather careless remarks made by Narayana Murthy of Infosys with regard to the singing of the National Anthem and the Cauvery protests.

Although every whiff of the life-giving oxygen he breathes and every coin that jingles in his pockets is from beyond our shores, he should have been a little more cautious with his statements, especially while referring to sensitive issues at a rather sensitive and painful time.

But what amused me most were the pictures in almost all the newspapers of the star couple of the IT sector squatting on a humble kerbstone of their own citadel while waiting for the President to arrive.

The duo could easily have asked for a few chairs to be put there not only for themselves but also for all the others who were waiting with them. In fact, I am sure that members of their staff would have offered to do this which they might have declined.

I know that they have had very humble beginnings and continue to be very down to earth despite their present position but I wonder if such a show of mock humility was really necessary. I would have considered this scene perfectly natural if they had been seen like this in a place where they were unknown and unrecognised.

Pictures like this look too “painted” and people can easily see through such subterfuges and will only laugh at such gimmicks.

The founder and chief of Infosys and his wife squatting on the roadside certainly would have been more of an embarrassment and discomfort to the foreigners on their campus than the singing of our National Anthem as all others in the group, both Indian and foreign, could then only have stood or squatted likewise.

Incidentally, it has been rightly said that humility is a very strange and elusive thing: The moment we think we have it, we have lost it!


Dr K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician. This piece appears in today’s Star of Mysore, where he writes a regular column, ‘Over a cup of evening tea’.

Photo courtesy: Star of Mysore

Will the real Ponnappa please stand up?

13 April 2007

Can a cartoonist have two views on the same subject on the same day in two different publications? In The Times of India, Bangalore edition, yesterday, the cartoonist N.S. Ponnappa took the safe and predictable Koramangala stand on the N.R. Narayana Murthy issue.

But, surprise, surprise—or maybe, no surprise, no surprise—in Mid-Day, Bombay, yesterday, he hammered home the irony of the national anthem not being sung through a witty line. Except that the cartoon got carried in the tabloid’s nascent Bangalore edition, too.

Different strokes for different folks?

Cross-posted on sans serif

‘Bill Gates won’t be President. So won’t NRN’

13 April 2007

Ever since the “Lexus of Liberalisation” rolled out, the Indian media has been hustled into a hallucinatory high by the rustle of the advertising rupee. Feel-good pap barely distinguishable from advertising copy—stories of success, enterprise, turnarounds, acquisitions, tie-ups—have been dished out with glee by the Paid Pipers, no questions asked.

Suddenly, though, reality is dawning on the salubrious backwaters of India International Centre. And Sagarika Ghose, looks at the prospects of N.R. Narayana Murthy becoming President of the Bharat id est India, through an unused prism lying on the premises of CNN-IBN.

“We are a country of consumers and newly rich. But we are also a country of bow and arrow-toting adivasis. The scream of injustice and the bloodshed of poverty are daily living realities. Caste may be irrelevant for many, it is a savage oppression for millions of others. Religion is a spa for many, it is a daily duty for millions. The representative of all these Indians cannot be someone who is wary of “embarrassment”.

“N.R. Narayana Murthy is justifiably a hero of new India. He is a visionary as large-hearted and as far sighted as few are, he is our Bill Gates. But just as Bill Gates will probably never be president of the America so also N.R. Narayana Murthy will probably never be president of India. And perhaps that’s how it should be.”

Read the full article here: Bharat’s first citizen

‘MNCs are the new fulcrum of our patriotism’

13 April 2007

NIKHIL MORO writes from Atlanta: I was heaving a sigh of relief that the jingoistic debate over N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s patriotism was over, when I read the latest: The Kannada Sahitya Parishat president, Chandrashekhar Patil, demanding that the government “deport” NRN.

I found myself pondering a curious question: Why are we, as a society, so edgy about issues of patriotism?

For all our feelings, the evidence out there is clear: Patriotism or nationalism may well be dead, slain by the demon of globalization.

Let’s consider the evolution of patriotism.

For early humans, the only loyalty lay to themselves: While the neanderthals walked West Asia some one-lakh years ago, there was also a Dawn of Man (to use a term from the 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey). Humans turned hunter-gatherers when not themselves hunted, and looked out for themselves.

Later, the feeling of loyalty or patriotism expanded to include little villages or communities when humans progressed to agrarian, pastoral or animal-raising professions, such as in the Indus Valley (of some 4,500 years back, the largest of the four ancient civilizations).

Even later, patriotism came to be defined by a city’s boundaries, upon the emergence of city-states such as Athens, Sparta, Troy (ancient age), Frankfurt, Amsterdam (middle age), Singapore, Monaco and Vatican City (modern age).

In about the 16th century, “nationalism” was born as patriotism, grew into a more profound ideology upon the birth of nation-states. Today nationalism, or patriotism, is evident when we discuss our cricket team’s performance, or the latest Agni launch, or ISRO’s Chandrayan program.

More recently however, the Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati and others at the London School of Economics (Drs. John Hutchinson, Anthony Smith, et al) have suggested that because of migrations and cultural mixing the nation-state has ceased to exist.

This is especially true in the West where nations, as distinct political-economic entities, are disappearing due to the cross-border movements of money, labour, technologies and cultures. Indications include the European Union, NAFTA, American immigration crisis, etc.

India is globalizing as well, thanks to satellite media, foreign investments, and migration from Bangladesh. The Internet has acted as globalization’s irrevocable agent, supporting Marshall McLuhan‘s “global village” aphorism.

And with the nation-state dead so would be any notion of nationalism, however laudable.

In this kind of mahaul, we need to ask: What entity, if any, has replaced the nation-state as the fulcrum of our feelings of loyalty? My guess is that there indeed has been a replacement—the Multinational Corporation.

Employing much of the world’s finer talent, the multinationals have gained a disproportionate influence on many facets of our life—we hardly need a George Ritzer to show us that. Regardless of our love for Karnataka or India, if our multinational employer posts us in Timbuktoo we better go. That’s reality, and so much for patriotism.

Whatever remains of patriotism seems to be increasingly in the chokehold of chauvinists: just listen to election speeches by some Shiv Sena or BJP candidates.

Is the apparent shift in loyalty, from the nation to the corporation, a good thing? That’s a value judgment we should make for ourselves. But one thing seems clear: NRN recognizes that loyalty shift.

Narayana Murthy is a man for our times. He and the rest of his progressive ilk see a world beyond Karnataka. They create jobs beyond borders and make wealth (not manage the poverty, like the socialists ended up doing). They respect the demand-supply marketplace, and thrive in it. They reject the failed welfare state but accept the oversight of government to sustain the free marketplace.

To me, NRN is a leader of a new culture of “marketplace nationalism” (a term my IRS-officer friend Venkata Bujimalla used whenever he and I discussed patriotism at Ohio State University).

While I have many misgivings about that new culture, I’d any day prefer it to the status quo represented by the losers in our Vidhana Sabha who called NRN names, or by folks such as Sri. Patil who demanded NRN be “deported”.

What arrogance!

S.L. Bhyrappa on the Narayana Murthy issue

12 April 2007

For two ideologically aggressive individuals who are not afraid to take up topics beyond the margins of their notebooks, U.R. Anantha Murthy and S.L. Bhyrappa are daggers drawn on most issues. To no one’s surprise, the trend continues in l’affaire N.R. Narayana Murthy. If URA has slammed NRN, Bhyrappa has backed the Infosys founder as this report in today’s Star of Mysore shows.


Mysore, Apr. 12 (BRS)- Noted novelist Dr S.L. Bhyrappa has asked: “What is the big crime that Infosys Chief Mentor Narayana Murthy has committed?”

He was reacting to the controversy involving Narayana Murthy relating to his reported statement about the National Anthem. “The issue has been blown out of proportion,” Dr. Bhyrappa told a newspaper yesterday.

“What Narayana Murthy meant by ’embarrassment’ is that these are foreign trainees on the Infosys Technologies campus and while our people would sing, the foreigners would just stand and watch. This could be embarrassing. Instead of this, they played the recorded instrumental version and those who knew the song hummed the lyric. He has even said he will correct it next time. The issue should be left there,” he explained.

“We are not talking about some ordinary person. Narayana Murthy is recognised all over the world. There are ample reasons for the politicians to launch an attack on Narayana Murthy. If you turn the pages of most newspapers during the past four to five years, you clearly know who those people are. He had spoken about lack of infrastructure, NICE controversy, his resignation in connection with international airport in Bangalore. All these has had a compounded effect on the National Anthem issue and its reaction. Politicians of different political parties are upset for one reason or the other. So, now, using the opportunity, they have attacked him unitedly,” Dr. Bhyrappa added.

“Do only the critics of Narayana Murthy have respect for the National Anthem?” he asked.

He told Star of Mysore this morning that he was not an advocate for Murthy to react on every statement of Infosys Chief Mentor. Dr. Bhyrappa endorsed the views of Murthy on the Cauvery row.

U.R. Anantha Murthy on N.R. Narayana Murthy

12 April 2007

In the aftermath of the N.R. Narayana Murthy row over the National Anthem, and the storm over Sachin Tendulkar cutting a cake in the colours of the National Flag, CNN-IBN’s daily 10 pm programme “Face the Nation” had a discussion last night on whether we are oversensitive to issues like these, and batting from Bangalore was the Jnanpith Award winning Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy.


Sagarika Ghose: Narayana Murthy about the national anthem. Murthy has always been perceived as a capitalist with a difference, he is a homegrown international icon, a boy next door who made good. Are you disappointed at these comments? Does it take away from his attractive Indian rootedness?

U.R. Anantha Murthy: I don’t think we should overdo this. He chose a wrong word…

You know, he is such a votary of the English language, and I am surprised that he used a word like “embarrassment”. He should have said that it is difficult for them to sing it, then there would have been no controversy.

Sagarika Ghose: Is this in some senses the face of globalisation? Infosys is our flagship-globalised company and in order to globalise, you have to compromise a little bit on your national identity, you have to play your nationalism down.

U.R. Anantha Murthy: You know, speaking for myself I am also unhappy with Narayana Murthy because he speaks only for the English medium. He is a cosmopolite. He is a great achiever and we admire him, but we differ from him.

Murthy should be grateful to the Karnataka government and to India because it made it possible for him. And he has no sympathy with the Nehruvian kind of socialism which created, really, the infrastructure necessary for people like Narayana Murthy to flourish. So, there is something wrong with the corporate culture.

Sagarika Ghose: So has this damaged his reputation?

Anantha Murthy: Yeah, he used a wrong word. That’ what I think. Embarrassment is a wrong word.

I don’t think he really meant it but because he belongs to the corporate culture, the globalising world, he does not have enough respect for mass movements, the people of Karnataka and the languages of India. That really worries us.

It’s not only Narayana Murthy. He is a very decent man, but man people like him are like that.

Sagarika Ghose: So in fact, the viewers and audience and members of the public—on our channel 90 per cent wanted NRN as President on this channel a couple of nights back—do you think they also signify this kind of dissconnect with India? They are the same kind of brand of people as NRN who are very successful, very humane, very compassionate but disconnected at some fundamental level with India.

Anantha Murthy: I still want a Dalit woman to be as President… Not only he but people like him are disconnected with India. They represent a cosmopolite culture…

Sagarika Ghose: Who is a greater patriot? Is it someone like Narayana Murthy or Sachin Tendulkar who prove their sentiments through actions or is it someone who displays the flags and tricolour of Indian nationhood?

Anantha Murthy: Neither of them. It is the people of India. The farmers of India…

The common masses…. People like Narayana Murthy do not have enough respect for them. Indian democracy is alive because they are alive…

The view, the opposite view, and the other view

12 April 2007

“The view, the opposite view, and the other view,” is the motto of Al-Jazeera, the path-breaking Qatar-based Arabic news channel. The picture and cartoon above illustrate that spirit—that there isn’t, can’t, shouldn’t be just one view on l’affaire N.R. Narayana Murthy vis-a-vis the National Anthem.

Image courtesy: kalvetu

Cartoon courtesy: N.S. Ponnappa/ The Times of India

A suitable ‘punishment’ for Narayana Murthy

12 April 2007

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes, tongue firmly in cheek: The brouhaha over N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s stand on the National Anthem rightly created a flutter all over the country, with Murthy eventually tendering an apology. But the echo is still being heard in the corridors of power in Bangalore.

Since these things are decided in Vidhana Soudha, I went and met the All-Party Spokesperson who was very courteous despite all the hungama going around. She looked all harried and haggard.

“What are you going to do with Mr. Murthy now that he has apologized?”

“He has apologized, but there is so much to be done, Sir. One of our leaders wants him to be deported where nobody wants him. I am on the line from yesterday. Wherever I phone, everybody seems to want him. It’s going to be difficult to send him off to nowhere.”

“You couldn’t get any place?”

“To teach Mr. Murthy a lesson which he will not forget easily, another leader wanted that Mr. Murthy be sent to a place where there is no water …. I was thinking of a planet near earth—HD 209458b. Even ISRO was ready to help us out. But then US Scientists have spoiled it all. They have just found there is water in that planet! If you ask me, as a punishment, there is no place better than Bangalore, as you get water only once in three days. I get up at four in the morning to store two buckets of water before I come for work. Probably we will let him stay here. This will be the best punishment!”

“Any other suggestion from our MLAs?”

“One of them wanted a CBI enquiry. I tried to call the agency. Somebody bluntly told me they have many cases already lined up like the Bellary scam, NICE scam, assets disproportionate to income etc for which they are still awaiting clearance. Obviously they just can’t take up this work.”

“I sympathize with you. But can’t you line up any other punishment?”

“I have to, sir. Otherwise I will lose my job. You seem to understand my problem better. I myself thought we should put some more pot holes in the IT Corridor before monsoon sets in. This will teach him a lesson. The BMC is already doing their bit. But this is punishment, no sir?

“We should ask them to dig it up deeper. Another way is to make the ring road one way and ask them to go round and round till they go nowhere. We are good in making every road a one-way in Bangalore. I have to think something quick. If you get any ideas will you please call and tell me sir? Thank you, sir.”

What Infosys played, and what NRN said

11 April 2007

Sagarika Ghose hosted a CNN-IBN “Face the Nation” segment on the Narayana Murthy-national anthem row, which was prefaced by a report from Bangalore by its correspondent Deepa Balakrishnan.

Accompanying story: Bloggers run riot over Murthy row

Bhaiyya, Tantoo Sharma ko gussa kyon aata hai?

11 April 2007

News happens—or rather, news gets reported—in a strange fashion in India id est Bharat. If there is a train accident, you can rest assured that half-a-dozen more accidents will be reported in the next couple of days. If a Mary statue drinks milk in Meerut in the morning, you can be dead sure that it will happen everywhere else from Mahishasurpur to Muzaffarnagar by mid-afternoon.

And so it is with the national anthem controversy involving N.R. Narayana Murthy. Even before the “quoted out context” claim of the Infosys founder registers, comes news that Sachin Tendulkar, may have insulted the national flag by cutting a cake which was tricoloured like the tiranga jhanda.

How much longer before it is revealed that a model showed disrespect to the national flag during the recent fashion week?


NEW DELHI: Sachin Tendulkar found himself at the centre of another controversy following a report by a television channel that he had cut a cake in the colours of the national flag during the Indian team’s stay in the West Indies last month.

A TV channel showed a photograph of Tendulkar with a knife about to cut the cake in the presence of Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica K.L. Agrawal.

Reacting to the television report, the Cricket Board said the incident should not be blown out of proportion as Tendulkar was a person who would never show any disrespect to the national flag.

“Tendulkar has spoken to me. He says that the function was organised by the India High Commission and with so many people around he did not realise the colour of the cake when he was suddenly asked to cut it,” BCCI Vice President Rajeev Shukla said.

Shukla said that Tendulkar could not be held responsible as it was a function organised by the Indian High Commission. “The High Commission should have taken care of these things”.

“Tendulkar will not do such a thing intentionally. He respects the national flag and had even sought permission to use the tricolour on his helmet. If an explanation is sought, it should be sought from the Indian High Commission”, Shukla said.

The Union Minister of State for Home, Sriprakash Jaiswal said that in all probability it was unintentional. “The person who made the cake should be held responsible for this,” he said.

Fans set afire posters in Indore

Fans of Sachin set on fire his posters to protest his action of reportedly cutting a cake with the national flag on it.

The fans led by one Tantoo Sharma and others beat Tendulkar’s posters with a bat and later set them on fire at the GPO Square.

Sharma demanded an apology from Tendulkar for his reported act, especially in view of the fact that the cricketer has great regard for his country.

Meanwhile, Tiranga Abhiyan convenor and Deputy Superintendent of Police Ravi Atrolia demanded unconditional apology from Tendulkar for allegedly disrespecting the national flag.

He said that though Tendulkar might have done it unknowingly, but it is a crime under section 2 of the prevention of insult to national honour act of 1971.

Atrolia said that if he failed to tender an apology then his organisation will be forced to take legal course as it has done in the past against various film personalities.

Bhartiya Janshakti Party leader Rajesh Bidkar also issued a legal notice to Tendulkar for allegedly insulting the national flag in Jamaica.

Bidkar demanded an unconditional apology from Tendulkar for reportedly insulting the national tricolour, failing which he would file a civil suit in court. (courtesy DNA)


Cross-posted on sans serif

What others are saying on Jana Gana Mana row

11 April 2007

The Hindu: Legislators slam Infosys chief for remark on national anthem

The Hindu: An avoidable row

Deccan Herald: Assembly bays for NRN’s blood

The Times of India: Murthy says sorry, was ‘quoted out of context’

BBC: Infosys boss makes anthem apology

CNN-IBN: Murthy sorry for ‘insulting’ anthem

NDTV: MLAs demand action against Murthy

Daijiworld: Narayana Murthy’s remark rocks Assembly

Yahoo: Is Narayana Murthy really a fit chap to be President?

CHURUMURI IMPACT: Sorry, says Narayana Murthy

10 April 2007

Infosys founder and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has apologised for his “explanation” on why the national anthem wasn’t played as it should be during President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam‘s visit to the IT giant’s Mysore campus on Sunday.

“If the media statement has hurt anybody’s sentiments, I deeply apologise,” Murthy said in a statement.

“We played the instrumental version of the national anthem so that we could all sing along, and all of us did so. We wished to share the pride of being an Indian in the gracious presence of our President. We are informed that this is as per protocol.

“We have always kept the interest of India foremost in our minds and our work speaks for itself. We are a proud Indian company, with strong universal ethos of transparency, accountability and honesty. It has always been our endeavour to represent India with the highest standards of respect and enable it to take its rightful place in the world economy.”


How the media followed our story

CNN-IBN: Murthy as Prez would be a shame

The New Indian Express: Blogs boil at Murthy’s anthem remark

In addition, the churumuri coverage figured in both Houses of the Karnataka Legislature on Tuesday (see YouTube video above). Legislators cutting across party lines condemned the “insult” to the National Anthem.

Brandishing copies of newspapers carrying details of the churumuri coverage of the issue, Vatal Nagaraj and ‘Mukhya MantriChandru demanded stern action before Home Minister M.P. Prakash pacified them.


To all the readers of, and to those who were incensed enough to leave a comment, we say thank you.

‘All companies must have the right to retrench’

10 April 2007


Earlier this year, Karan Thapar, one of India’s more acerbic interviewers, interviewed N. R. Narayana Murthy on a range of big issues for CNN-IBN. Please click on the link above to hear the first portion of that interview.

These are the salient points Murthy makes.

# The responsibility of government is to ensure people are happy and prosperous. To make them prosperous, you need economic growth. To achieve economic growth, you need to encourage entrepreneurship. That means creation of more and more jobs.

It’s not the responsibility of government to create jobs. Its responsibility is to create and environment where there are greater and greater incentives for more and more entrepreneurship to create a larger and larger number of jobs.

# Capitalism is about providing equal opportunities for people, giving them the incentive to perform and creating the competitive conditions.

All countries which embraced communism have failed. Even Cuba. When Fidel Castro fell ill, the only person he could trust was his brother!

I believe in compassionate capitalism where there is capitalism in the mind, socialism in the heart, and corporations which make profits will have to live in harmony with the society around them.

# True socialism is what previls in Sweden and Norway. We followed pseudo-socialism in the 1950s and 60s.

# We have the largest mass of unemployed people. We have the largest mass of illiterates and semi-literates. Agriculture isn’t growing fast enough. We have to shift them from agriculture to low-tech like China has done (140 million jobs in 11 years).

We can’t have a situation where 65 per cent of the people account for only 26 per cent of the GDP.

# All over the word, it has been demonstrated that only when you have the right to retrench will you become bold enough to create more and more jobs.

We must be bold enough to bring labour reforms and at the same time have a good safety net so that even if people are retrenched they don’t have to worry for 3-4 months.

# We must privatise public sector units. Government should not be in business. The navaratnas should perform even better as if they are private sector units.

Infrastructure—airports, roads, ports, power—should be built by private sector. Government should create the policies that encourage the private sector and if necessary act as the regulator.

Even in education and health care, I do believe in urban areas the government should leave it to the private sector. Government should provide subsidies by way of vouchers as Milton Friedman suggested.

# The retail sector should be opened up. If the existing mom-and-pop shops are suffering due to the entry of large Indian groups, then we can go the whole hog and allow large MNCs. They will bring in the best technology, the practices. The consumer benefits in the end.

# There are sections of our society which need subsidies. But we do not have the accountability. We need to work on a model which enhances accountability so that the government brings its good intentions, and the private sector brings its efficiency and technology.

Cho Ramaswamy: Why NRN won’t wash as Prez

10 April 2007

Although A.P.J. Abdul Kalam only said “Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic” in response to some starry-eyed kid’s mention of N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s name as the next President, the TV channels have swung into action as if the incumbent was backing or endorsing the Infosys founder as his successor.

CNN-IBN had a discussion on Murthy as President last night and the Tamil commentator and editor of Tughlak Cho Ramaswamy alone among the three panelists struck a discordant note, maintaining that setting up a worldclass company was not enough as a qualification because of how unconnected Murthy was with reality as we know it.

“The post of President is not a Padma award that you give away to industrialists.”

‘Jana gana mana’ makes foreigners uneasy: NRN

9 April 2007

As the mascot of the new, emerging, rising, shining, strident, resurgent, pumped-up India id est Bharat, Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy wears the tricolour on his cuff links. So, you would think that his hairs would stand on end hearing the National Anthem being sung on his campuses.

Well, think again.

The President (the real one) was in Mysore on Sunday. But what greeted A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was not the mellifluous rendition of Rabindranath Tagore‘s poem by human beings, but—in the grand tradition of call centres that India’s IT “revolution” somewhat exemplifies—a prerecorded electronic version that sounded more like a cheap non-polyphonic cellphone ringtone.

Reason? Hear it from the host of the show.

“Indeed we had arranged for five people to sing the anthem. But then we cancelled it as we have foreigners on-board here. They should not be embarrassed while we sing the anthem.”

Yes, you read that right.

The foreigners should not be embarrassed while we sing our national anthem.

Infosys said last year it had some 1,800 foreigners on its rolls. But there are no precise figures on how many foreigners were at the Infosys Leadership Institute aka the Mysore campus, which is designed to seat 6,400 students, yesterday. But it is on record that it had offered jobs to 126 students from 82 foreign universities last year.

Even if that figure of foreigners is ten times greater, does it mean Mr Murthy’s company is willing to slavishly mute his nation’s anthem for their sake?

Unfortunately, batting for the national anthem has become a Bajrang Dal exercise which is not quite the politically correct party in the land of churumuri. But what is the precise embarrassment that foreigners feel by listening to their host-country’s national anthem?

For starters, have the foreigners said so, or is Murthy presuming it and koorsing the goobe on their shoulders to nusk out of a national controversy?

And for another, at the Olympics and at the football World Cup, two events most foreigners are aware of, the national anthem of the winning team/player and the national anthem of the two competing teams are played per force, not just for the benefit of the players/teams, but also of those present in the stadium, who in most cases are foreigners, and a global television audience, which is always foreign.

If that is OK, why is it difficult for Infosys’ iPod wearing foreigners to listen to a 52-second, five-stanza number? Or for their faculty to make them listen to it?

But, above all, coming to a foreign country, to a foreign city, to a foreign company is all about learning, appreciating, assimilating, understanding, and respecting that country’s, that city’s, that company’s culture.

If Infosys’ foreigners—all 126 of or whatever multiples of them—are not doing that, then they have missed a vital ingredient of their education and even more vital ingredient of their excursion.

Narayana Murthy is being spoken of the “fantastic” next President. Hopefully, the first Kannadiga to be Rashtrapati will not have similar views of the rashtra geethe being sung in the presence of foreigners.


For the benefit of the embarrassed foreigners, here is a google video of it, which we reproduce most unembarrassedly.

Praja Vani alleges that 90 per cent of the 5,000 employees who had assembled for the Kalam function yesterday at the Infosys campus didn’t know the lyrics of the national anthem by heart.

For the benefit of ignorant Infoscions, here are the full lyrics.


Also read: Why NRN will make a poor President

One question I’m dying to ask Narayana Murthy

Narayana Murthy to revive Swatantra Party?