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

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.

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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…