Uncommon Love: A Profound Sketch Of Simple Souls!
The hearts of the brilliant minds
The colours and seasons of evolving love
The personal costs of entrepreneurship
The role of parenting in creating leaders
The story of the guiding light of Infosys
The tale of India’s most loved children’s author
The chronicle of current British PM’s family
The history of India’s IT Industry
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘An Uncommon Love: The Early Life of Sudha and Narayana Murthy’ covers all of the above and more themes!
Like its iconic subjects, Uncommon Love is a simple, candid and honest story of the early life of Sudha and Narayan Murthy. The couple have led a very private life and hence it is quite insightful to get a peek into their personal world. The book is filled with rich anecdotes which are a delight for everyone. These tales give us a clear understanding of the individual traits of Sudha and Narayan.
Indeed a few stories stand out:
Sudha Murty is a movie buff and a certified ‘First Day First Show’ fan. She won the title of Miss Cinema, after winning the bet to watch one movie every day of the year in a theatre! I can relate to it totally!
She was the only woman in the engineering class of 150 men and had to face a lot of challenges including derogatory comments and total unkindness. Her admission conditions included compulsory wearing of saree, no access to canteen and no chatting with boys! The college had no toilet and she had to travel to home in break. But not only she excelled despite the systemic misogyny, she won the respect of everyone!
She got prestigious MIT admission but she gave it up for a shop floor job at Telco – A job where she challenged J R D Tata for ‘men only’ employment policy of Tatas and won the coveted job. She faced similar challenges like the engineering college but her persistence and diligence and professionalism won the day. Later in life, she cried profusely when she visited MIT.
Sudha supported the entrepreneurial dreams of Murthy emotionally, physically and even financially! Murthy would be broke and she would loan money and fund their expenses. She had a notebook of loans which she destroyed on their wedding day.
She regularly financed Infosys and saved it – even pawned her wedding jewellery. She had to be away from her young daughter Akshata to help Infosys as well as manage her job.
Narayan Murthy got an IIT admission but his father’s financial situation forced him to turn it down. He was devastated.
He learnt English due to the nudge and kind help of a roadside shopkeeper!
He proposed to Sudha in an autorickshaw. Though she agreed, her father was not convinced. Narayana also had worn a Red Shirt when meeting his prospective in-laws and gave weird responses to their questioning.
He turned down a lucrative job offer at Hindustan Lever because of the ‘separate toilets’ policy.
Azim Premji interviewed Murthy but did not offer him the job as he thought Murthy was too simple. What if Azim Premji had hired Narayan Murthy?
Narayan Murthy founded Infosys but he gave a lion’s share to all other colleagues. All the other co-founders got big equity share – more than the normal business parlance. He kept only 30% and distributed the rest. He took a 90% salary cut while gave a 20% hike to others. He always focussed on the comfort of the employees. Compassionate Capital is his mantra!
Narayan Murthy did not allow Sudha to join Infosys as he wanted to create a totally professional company. He told her that if she wants to join Infosys, he will support her decision – he would leave and let her run the show. Sudha was very disappointed, hurt and angry. These hard decisions created Infosys as a different company (there was a brief departure from this position when Rohan joined as EA for a short period).
What if Sudha Murthy ran Infosys?
Murthy was busy building Infosys and could not spend time with the kid. The children felt that Infosys was the third sibling – the favourite child that never grew up and required constant attention.
He continues to be the simpleton. He cleans his own toilet.
Sudha clearly emerges as the brighter, smarter and more generous with her untold sacrifices. But Narayan Murthy’s simplicity, humanity, ethical approach and care for everyone else is his distinguishing hallmark. As Sudha said, he was the trapeze artist in the circus and she was the safety net!
In summary, Uncommon Love is a great read. The author’s grip on the content is not consistent and the book is bereft of any pictures – the one big disappointment in such a rich historically important biography. While the childhood, career, courtship, marriage, childbirth and entrepreneurship is captured well, the rise of Infosys and Sudha’s author career is very rushed.
The love, understanding, respect and support that Sudha and Narayan gave each other is the core message of the book. They do not need anyone else other than each other’s company. They are mirror to each other and their bond strengthened by shared values and idealistic principles.
The book also gives a glimpse of the challenges that Narayan Murthy faced in setting up Infosys after his first failure as an entrepreneur. Indeed it is due to persistence of him and likes of Fakir Chand Kohli, that India has emerged as an IT superpower – that would change the glo
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