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Old 31st August 2006, 10:52   #1
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Default Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky! JRD who else?

Have Passion!

It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies' hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science.

I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US. I had not thought of taking up a job in India.

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors). It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.

At the bottom was a small line: "Lady candidates need not apply."

I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination.

Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers. Little did I know then that in real life academic excellence is not enough to be successful.

After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the topmost person in Telco's management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco

I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company's chairman then) I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.

"The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives They have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender."

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco's Pune facility at the company's expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs 30 each from everyone who wanted a sari When I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip.

It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city.

To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed, I went to Telco's Pimpri office for the interview.

There were six people on the panel and I realised then that this was serious business.

"This is the girl who wrote to JRD," I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realisation abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.

Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, "I hope this is only a technical interview."

They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, "Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories."

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place.

I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, "But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories."

Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married.

It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I was in his office on the first floor of Bombay House (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw "appro JRD". Appro means "our" in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him.

I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, "Jeh (that's what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.

She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor." JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it).

Thankfully, he didn't. Instead, he remarked. "It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?"

"When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir," I replied. "Now I am Sudha Murthy." He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room.

After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard. Looking back, I realise JRD had forgotten about it. It must have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.

"Young lady, why are you here?" he asked. "Office time is over." I said, "Sir, I'm waiting for my husband to come and pick me up." JRD said, "It is getting dark and there's no one in the corridor.

I'll wait with you till your husband comes."

I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable.

I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn't any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, "Look at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for the sake of an ordinary employee."

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, "Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again." In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused.

Gently, he said, "So what are you doing, Mrs Kulkarni?" (That was the way he always addressed me.) "Sir, I am leaving Telco."

"Where are you going?" he asked. "Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I'm shifting to Pune."

"Oh! And what will you do when you are successful."

"Sir, I don't know whether we will be successful." "Never start with diffidence," he advised me "Always start with confidence. When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate. I wish you all the best."

Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive.

Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, "It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he's not alive to see you today."

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn't do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today's engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence.

(Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayana Murthy is her husband.)

Article sourced from: Lasting Legacies (Tata Review- Special Commemorative Issue 2004), brought out by the house of Tatas to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of JRD Tata on July 29, 2004.

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Old 31st August 2006, 11:56   #2
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What an article!! Beautifully written & describes human feelings & respect beautifully.

And what a man Mr. JRD was, still rever him as one of the pioneers of Indian industry.
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Old 31st August 2006, 12:11   #3
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That was a very nice article ECM.
Thanks for posting :-)
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Old 31st August 2006, 13:10   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ECM
I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company's chairman then)

Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM.
While I have been a great fan of JRD myself, more than JRD, it was Mr Sumant Moolgaonkar who built Tata Motors. He was the company's MD for nearly 30 years. JRD was the Chairman and was not involved in the day-to-day running of the company. An automobile engineer by qualification, Mr Moolgaonkar was a born-perfectionist. It was the JRD-Sumant team that purposefully chose the reputed Daimler-Benz as Telco's foreign collaborator.

When Indira Gandhi nationalised Maruti Udyog Ltd. in 1980, Sumant was made the company's chairman. He was keen that only people-mover vehicles/buses should be made by Maruti since that is what the country required. Since Mrs Gandhi did not relent (being keen to fulfil her late son's dream of making a small car), Sumant quit in desperation.

In his memory, Tata Motors named the Sumo after him - (Su)mant (Mo)olgaonkar. Also, a lake at the Tata Motors complex at Pune (called Sumant Sagar) is named after him.
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Old 31st August 2006, 19:30   #5
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Excellent Article...Good Read..Thanks
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Old 31st August 2006, 20:04   #6
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Simply awesome.. like a movie man. esp when the infy part come in!!
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Old 31st August 2006, 21:29   #7
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ECM, a beautiful article - Thanks for sharing it.
DI, a nice note to a beautiful article.

From JRD to Sudha Murthy, through Infosys to the world. May their tribe increase.
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Old 31st August 2006, 22:13   #8
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Infect it was posted in my forum by one of our member called Anil from Qatar and I thought let me post it here so compliments go to Anil indirectly,Thx friends.
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Old 31st August 2006, 22:27   #9
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Default Few more from the same author, Sudha Murthy

A few years back, I was travelling in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. It was getting dark, and due to a depression over the Bay of Bengal, it was raining heavily. The roads were overflowing with water and my driver stopped the car near a village. 'There is no way we proceed further in this rain,' said the driver. 'Why don't you look for shelter somewhere nearby rather than sit the car?'

Stranded in an unknown place among unknown people, I was a bit worried. Nevertheless, I retrieved my umbrella and marched out into the pelting rain. I started walking towards the tiny village, whose name I cannot recall now. There was no electricity and it was a trial walking in the darkness and the rain.

In the distance I could just make out the shape of a small temple. I decided it would be an ideal place to take shelter, so I made my way to it. Halfway there the rain started coming down even more fiercely and the strong wind blew my umbrella away, leaving me completely drenched. I reached the temple-soaking wet.

As soon as I entered, I heard an elderly person's voice calling out to me. Though I cannot speak Tamil, I could make out the concern in the voice. In the course of my travels, I have come to realize that voices from the heart can be understood irrespective of the language they speak.

I peered into the darkness of the temple and saw an old man of about eighty. Standing next to him was an equally old lady in a traditional nine-yard cotton sari. She said something to him and then approached me with a worn but clean towel in her hand.

As I wiped my face and head I noticed that the man was blind. It was obvious from their surroundings that they were very poor. The Shiva temple, where I now stood, was simple with the minimum of ostentation in its decorations. The Shivalinga was bare except for a bilwa leaf on top. The only light came from a single oil lamp. In that flickering light a sense of calm overcame me and I felt myself closer to god than ever before.

In halting Tamil, I asked the man to perform the evening mangalarati, which he did with love and dedication. When he finished, I placed a hundred-rupee note as the dakshina.

He touched the note and pulled away his hand, looking uncomfortable. Politely he said, 'Amma, I can make out that the note is not for ten rupees, the most we usually receive. Whoever you may be, in a temple, your devotion is important, not your money. Even our ancestors have said that a devotee should give as much as he or she can afford to. To me you are a devotee of Shiva, like everyone else who comes here. Please take back this money.I was taken aback. I did not know how to react. I looked at the man's wife expecting her to argue with him and urge him to take the money, but she just stood quietly.

Often, in many households, a wife encourages the man's greediness. Here, it was the opposite. She was endorsing her husband's views. So I sat down with them, and with
the wind and rain whipping up a frenzy outside, we talked about our lives. I asked them about themselves, their life in the village temple and whether they had anyone to look after them.

Finally I said, 'Both of you are old. You don't have any children to look after your everyday needs. In old age one requires more medicines than groceries. This village is far from any of the towns in the district. Can I suggest something to you?'

At that time, we had started an old-age pension scheme and I thought, looking at their worn-out but clean clothes, they would be the ideal candidates for it.

This time the wife spoke up, 'Please do tell, child.'

'I will send you some money. Keep it in a nationalized bank or post office. The interest on that can be used for your monthly needs. If there is a medical emergency you can use the capital.'

The old man smiled on hearing my words and his face lit up brighter than the lamp.

'You sound much younger than us. You are still foolish. Why do I need money in this great old age? Lord Shiva is also known as Vaidyanathan. He is the Mahavaidya, or Great doctor. This village we live in has many kind people. I perform the pooja and they give me rice in return. If either of us is unwell, the local doctor gives us medicines.

Our wants are very few. Why would I accept money from an unknown person? If I keep this money in the bank, like you are telling me to, someone will come to know and may harass us. Why should I take on these worries? You are a kind person to offer help to two unknown old people, But we are content; let us live as we always have. We don't need anything more.'

Just then the electricity came back and a bright light lit up the temple. For the first time I saw the couple properly. I could clearly see the peace and happiness on their faces. They were the first people I met who refused help in spite of their obvious need. I did not agree with everything he had just said, but it was clear to me that his contentment had brought him peace. Such an attitude may not let you progress fast, but after a certain period in life it is required. Perhaps this world with its many stresses and strains has much to learn from an old couple in a forgettable corner of India.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Now I am putting a quiz here,read below para and tell me who is the gentleman involved in below paragraph.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
******used to think of himself as a committed socialist, but three days in a Yugoslav lockup changed his mind. Back in the early 1970s, while traveling through Europe by train, **** was seized by the police at Nis, a town near the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border. He'd been chatting up a fellow passenger in French, and he thinks her boyfriend complained to a cop. **** was kept in a room in the train station for 72 hours and shipped out on a freight car. "There was no going back to communism after that," he says.
--------------------------
Tip:-He is NOT Mr.M.K.Gandhi !!

Last edited by ECM : 31st August 2006 at 22:32.
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Old 31st August 2006, 22:57   #10
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Awesome stuff to read.....

great find ECM......For once i thought u are Sudha murthy...


KP

Last edited by kpzen : 31st August 2006 at 23:00.
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Old 31st August 2006, 23:11   #11
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Me too thought you were Sudha Murthy... great stuff man...!
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Old 31st August 2006, 23:24   #12
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Add more to above tears came in most of us eyes,atleat in my eyes when I read the article(yes emotions rule India so this is not for those who speak (hin)glish in their daily routine,sorry I am tuff as far as some critical points go!)
[I looked at the man's wife expecting her to argue with him and urge him to take the money, but she just stood quietly.]<see her observations,here I salute the author.
{The old man smiled on hearing my words and his face lit up brighter than the lamp.}<True Indian vision by Sudha,where ever u go,east/west/south or North feelings never change!
Now go and get the book title is Old man and his god by Sudha Murthy.
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Old 1st September 2006, 13:27   #13
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gr8 writeups by mrs. sudha murthy. it sometimes feels good to know how money doesn't change some people.
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Old 1st September 2006, 14:58   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ECM
******used to think of himself as a committed socialist, but three days in a Yugoslav lockup changed his mind. Back in the early 1970s, while traveling through Europe by train, **** was seized by the police at Nis, a town near the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border. He'd been chatting up a fellow passenger in French, and he thinks her boyfriend complained to a cop. **** was kept in a room in the train station for 72 hours and shipped out on a freight car. "There was no going back to communism after that," he says.
--------------------------
Tip:-He is NOT Mr.M.K.Gandhi !!
Hey ECM,
Who's that???
Couldn't make much of a guess!!!
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Old 1st September 2006, 20:37   #15
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Anyone tried to guess the answer of my quiz?
no?
well I shall post the reply by today midnight if all fail to find the correct reply of this quiz.Good luck and keep trying.
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