Monday, April 16, 2007

Narayana Murthy and National Anthem

Faux pas

To a request from media to get National Anthem sung live, Narayana Murthy declined and said, "We have foreigners on board here and we didn't wish to embarrass them while we sing the anthem." Following which the media criticized him, politicians baited him, and some people suggested that he is unpatriotic. Now, it is a topic of debate in itself.

Poor guy- Narayana Murthy is being thrown into a bigger role for India for which he is not prepared. The expectations are becoming bigger everyday. For example, there was no need or necessity to ask Abdul Kalam if Narayana Murthy should become the next President. The next day media quoted Abdul Kalam's 'fantastic' approval to Narayana Murthy's President role. It is quite amusing to see what media asks and what they want to quote. Nobody asked if Narayana Murthy would be interested in such a role. The media has unnecessarily raised Narayana Murthy beyond the contributions he made for corporate India and wanted to see more action from him. I don't think he is ready for that nor does he want to be ready for that.

Now, this remark on singing of National Anthem is definitely a faux pas. Narayana Murthy should realize that he is now bigger than what he thought he was, and such remarks from such big people, whom many people look up to, will not go easy with the people (and those jobless politicians). I say, leave him alone. He doesn't want a bigger role. Let him be. Having unnecessary expectations from him will lead to dissatisfaction, and it may blur the achievements he has already made.

Why he might have said what he said

I can understand why Naryana Murthy said what he said. If you understand the culture that is imbibed in most software-services business in India, you will realize that there is this amazing habit of bending over backwards to accommodate the customers (who happen to be foreign companies). The respect for customers is somehow mixed with respect for foreigners and soon one doesn't know why we are being obsequious to these foreign companies- is it because they are the customers or is it because they are foreigners?

In an attempt to try to portray the Indian companies as international companies (by recruiting miniscule few foreigners), these companies like to shed the image of being 'Indian'. Their focus on going global is so strong that one of the steps to become global is translated as 'losing that Indianness'.

I worked for a year with an Indian company in my career. They are 99% Indian in its employees and in locations. However, in their newly launched ad campaign, I could only see white people (and they are all blue-eyed-blondes). I went to the Brand department to ask why there are only foreign people in these ads. She said that it was so because the company is now an international company- they want to portray international people in its ads. I asked, 'How come there are no Indians in the ad? Also, how come there are no Africans, or Korean, or Chinese? And also, why only these select group of Scandinavian-Nordic-Saxon white people with blonde hair and blue eyes?' For which she smiled, and said thats what most people wanted to see! (I am not sure about that).

Singing national anthem, or wearing Indian ethnic dresses is seen as rubbing off too much Indianness onto foreign customers. And in an attempt to portray oneself as international company, there is a tendency to tone down that Indianness. Mr. Narayana Murthy, I believe, was just doing that! Unfortunately! :)


  1. I don't think Narayan Murthy and all those people in the IT Industry realize that these very foriegners that they try to appease by shedding their "Indianness", would actually appreciate expresions of modest pride in our nationality. There is nothing in singing our National Anthem that should offend any foriegner. I have stood among Americans after 9/11 during company meetings where they sung their National Anthem. And I did it with all respect for them and their sense of nationhood. I do not believe that any American's sensibilities would be hurt if in India in a gathering of primarily Indians the Indian National Anthem is sung. I think Narayan Murthy and all like minded people should re-evaluate their our prejudies.


  2. well said Inderjeet.

  3. We invite a guest of honour for republic day from a foreign country and isn't jana gana mana played at that time

  4. I believe what Mr. Inderjeet Raina said holds true, in each and every sense. I also believe that it is not foreigners who are embarassed to listen or sing our National Anthem, but Narayan Murthy himself is. And by singing or playing our Anthem, per say the foreign delegates would have been embarassed, let them be! What does Naryan Murthy have to say for not even considering the sheer existance of our President Mr. Abdul Kalam amongst all these foreign delegates?? And always remember, Naryan Murthy is what he is because of India and all these Indians who work in his comapany!!He wouldnt have been one of the richest guy's in the country had he been working alone, can he??



  6. I agree with Inderjeet and the other posters.

    Murthy is what he is today because of Indians. If the Goras on his board are embarassed, then that is their problem. Why is Murthy taking up cudgels on their behalf?

    In Australia, they give you a little handout with the national anthem printed on it during many events. You may not join in the singing but you are expected to be participate in spirit.

    That is what Murthy should have done. Given the Goras a handout and hopefully they would have stood up and respected the anthem, maybe even put their hands on their hearts like the Americans.

    Sujai is right. Murthy is stepping into a realm far larger than he is capable of - especially since he is sacrificing national pride at the altar of the Gora's embarassment.

    He has neither understood the Gora pschye nor built on his own insecure feelings about his Indianness

  7. When others did the similar faux pas U people did not rise cudgels.....why?
    That is because you treat him differently.
    He may look at the Foren employees/customers as the same old Colonial bosses.So his not choosing to sing the NA may be fitting.Are U not aware that his company similarly shuns the locals and the regional language for one good reason
    "because we have people from all parts of India, it is not nice us to hold on to regionalism or to Kannada language." Sudha and N. Murthy's mother toungue is kannada( is it?).
    Infosys does donate a significant amount of funds to help building labs and wards for hospitals allover the country, donating used comps to thousands of schools are all applaudable.But it is worth noting that many non-Indians and NRIs do a lot more than this and remain modest.If I can quote one non-Indian, he is Dominique Lappierr of " Freedom at Midnight" fame who has spent in charities, a huge sum of nearly 30 crores from the profits from the sale of his own books!
    Doing charity should not qualify one for becoming that BIG a person as to become The Prez.
    If he can be one, isn't it better to choose R. Tata who is known in very high circles and respected in America.
    Any way he is becoming more famous thro' us in these colums.

  8. Each western country respects national pride. Americans are quite proud of themselves, they wear american flag on many of their dresses. The British are the proudest of all (mind me if that word is correct), the world history knows it. So, what is wrong in we being proud of our country... Narayan murthy should learn this sentiment of we Indians.We have a very good way of greeting others.'NAMASTE', why don't we do that, every one the chinese greets a fellow chinese in his language, the japanese say "syonara" , the Russians say Zdravstvujte, when they meet or are leaving. Why then we don't say "NAMASTE". I was many times ridiculed by my friends as they thought I am like old fashioned or something. Infact we should be proud of that. Many foreigners respect us because of our culture, heritage and tradition. I think the reason Narayanmurthy was afraid to let sing the National Anthem live because he may have felt every one will sing it wrong. And singing the National Anthem wrong is the biggest embarrasment one can get to a country. That is why he might have backed off with such proposal. Also, this thing he can't even tell it in public. This might be one of his convictions.

  9. "Each western country respects national pride. Americans are quite proud of themselves, they wear american flag on many of their dresses. "

    Nationalism or more accurately macho display of nationalism can be a different topic for discussion. However, it is factually incorrect to say that all western countries respect national pride. US is the only developed and western country that prides on nationalism. In pretty much entire Europe, nationalism is considered vulgar and cheap. In once "proudest" nationalistic country Germany, people actually feel embarrassed when some of their people wave national flags in sports events etc. Waving of national flag is generally considered the preserve of the rustic and uneducated.

    -Vivek Behal


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