Sunday, 27 April 2008

My First TAG

STALAG SUKHOI put up this TAG in his post where he invited the people on his blogroll to attempt. So in that sense this is my first TAG:

Last Movie You Saw In A Theater:
Chak De India around 6 months back with my friend Manu.

What Book Are You Reading:
"The House with 6 legs” by Enid Blyton. I read it every night to the kids before they go to sleep.

Favourite Board Game:

Favourite Magazine:
Without a doubt, Readers Digest but I don’t get to read them as often as I would like to

Favorite Smells:
The smell of baking and the smell of oranges

Favourite Sound:
The gentle snores emanating from my kids when they are in deep sleep

Worst Feeling in The World:
When I put my foot in my mouth

What Is the First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
Dare I snatch another hour of sleep?

Favorite Fast Food Place:
Dunkin Donuts

Future Child's Name:
Have 2 kids – Nikita and Naina. To choose these 2 names we did so much brainstorming. Future kid………:-o but if i have to choose a name I'm going to keep it simple: Nina(Ni from Nikita and Na from Naina)

Finish This Statement. "If I Had A Lot Of Money I'd...
Spend it on my parents

Do You Drive Fast?
Not beyond the speed limit

Do You Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?
Nope they tickle my nose and scratch my chin

Storms-Cool Or Scary?
Scary but minus the damage

What Was Your First Car?
It was my fathers car -a Standard something where u got into the back seat by pushing the front seat forward

Favourite drink:
Chocolate Milkshake

Finish This Statement, "If I Had The Chance I Would .....
Learn self-defense, learn how to swim and How to play a musical instument

Do You Eat The Stems On Broccoli?
Haven’t tasted Broccoli leave alone the stem

If You Could Dye Your Hair Any Color, What Would Be Your Choice?
Jet Black, so black that it looks Blue

Name All The Different Cities/Towns You Have Lived In.
Bangalore, Dubai

Favourite Sports To Watch:
Cricket, Tennis

One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You:
I’m really impressed that he didn’t write anything alcoholic in the favorite drink column(or was he pulling our leg?)

What's Under Your Bed?
A dismantled baby cot, a Shoe Box containing shoe polish, brush, etc and an unused land phone.

Would You Like To Be Born As Yourself Again?
Yes I would like to be born as myself but in New Zealand

Morning Person Or Night Owl?
Morning person if I get 8 hrs of sleep

Over Easy Or Sunny Side Up?
Neither. I don’t like eggs except in cakes & other desserts

Favourite Place To Relax:

Favourite Pie:
Apple Pie

Favourite Ice Cream Flavor:
I like double Chocolate and Vanilla

Of All The People You Tagged This To, Who's Most Likely To Respond First?
I tag Bins, ISH, and Sunshine. I’m guessing ISH is going to answer this first.

p.s - edited to add guess hit bullseye...ISH didnt let me down:-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Baking Bites

No, you havent stumbled into a recipe blog.....its just me trying to find an appropriate title for my post. Let me pour the soup out(Chicken Soup for FYI).......

When I got married at the age of 25 the total sum of my culinary knowledge was how to ruin a tea & burn chapattis. Oh yes, and how to harass ...oops sorry i meant, boil an egg.

Much as I’d love to heap the blame on my mother’s head I have to admit that it was purely my own fault. To put it very frankly, I didn’t really see a need to comprehend the art of cooking. When you have a mother who provides you with 3 meals a day & a snack or two in-between, what is the need to sweat it out in the kitchen.

Every once in a while she used to remind me very severely about how I was going to ‘suffer’ the consequences after I got married. That moment when she would say it I’d wonder whether I should be a little more concerned about the lacking of this particular skill. Then promptly dismiss it with a click of my tongue. I had better things to confuse my mind with.

Then I got married & moved away to Dubai. Armed with cookery books of various kinds(my wellwishers stuffed them into my suitcase without my knowledge) I ventured into unknown territories.

Luckily for me, my father in law was staying with us. He was very patient with me while I picked up the ropes. He was used to cooking for the 2 of them(himself & my better half) before my arrival (my MIL was in India then). Before marriage I remember asking my husband-to-be as to who did the cooking, “Both of us share the cooking” he said grandly “Papa makes the food & I eat it”.

Within a year I sort of got the hang of the basics of namely the Kerala cuisine. Even then I was not exactly fanatical about cooking. It was just a means to fill two hungry stomachs..…ok 3 hungry souls if you want to count me also.

Just once in a while, if some interesting recipe on the internet caught my eye, I would attempt it but would never follow the directions thru. I always ended up adding my own stuff into the dish & making it something different altogether.

This is probably the exact reason why none of my dishes turn out the same way each time I make it. Like, if I’ve made a Mushroom masala 25 times in these years, this same Mushroom Masala will never taste the same even once.

Then something happened. Now this can’t be termed as a momentous occasion in my life but still it brought about a renewed interest in Gastronomy. My FIL replaced the 25 yrs old cooking range(they had it from the late 1970’s….imagine) with a new one complete with oven & grill. Not that the old stove didn’t have an oven. The old oven was a deep cavity used as a storage cache. All the stuff you didn’t use but didn’t muster the courage to throw out, found its way there. So you can empathize with the lack of interest on my part. The new oven was a shiny piece of machinery which found a place in my heart. The oven and grill inspired the gourmet side of me which I never thought existed.

Well, my mother does a lot of baking. My sis & I(willingly, in this case) have helped her with the base jobs(like beating the eggs, sieving the flour & ofcourse polishing off the batter remains). So I dug out a few recipes for cakes, nothing fancy ofcourse, just the usual cocoa cake, 5 minute cake, etc. and ofcourse the Internet was a very useful tool. Now whichever cake I wanted to make I would take printouts of atleast 3 different versions of the SAME cake. And follow the method given in all 3 of them. No, its not very difficult to do once you get the hang of it. It’s just like watching 3 movies on 3 diff channels at the same time… papa is good at this.....hmm, come to think of it........ it must be hereditary.

Coming back to the topic, most of these culinary experiments materialized into maybe not ‘sublime stuff’ but like they say in English ‘quite good’ and my Guinea Pigs try their best not to look too surprised.

Every time I went on vacation my mother used to complain that she has not tasted anything I have made ‘till today’. And I retort “you come to my home and I’ll make anything you want to eat”(it was actually an excuse to avoid making a fool of myself). Now finally they have come over for a vacation & I make it a point to make dinner every night(well, almost every night). Luckily for me, everything I make comes out pretty good. My parents are quite impressed.

No really I’m not praising myself. Doesn’t it happen to you? Like, you do everything for some people it never comes out well whereas you make half an effort for some others & it just turns out brilliant. I tell this with so much confidence coz many a time, I slave over a meal when my inlaws are in town & it turns out like…….like……. ‘Ho hum..cant she try harder’ stuff whereas now, I just put together whatever I find in the fridge & kitchen shelves into a pan & saute it.......voila it’s delicious.

So coming to the preachy part of the post. Dear people, who don’t know how to cook….don’t go into depressions coz you don’t know how to brew coffee. The simplest solution is to....... marry a guy who knows(damn, here I faltered…..I fell for my husband’s worldly charms)…….and dont forget to collect the menu advertisement fliers & booklets which is slid under your door.

No, seriously, cooking is not the ‘end all’ of all things….well one must eat to survive. And cooking does come into it, in that context. But its not Rocket-science, just Permutation and Combination of Spices, Cereals, Veggies and Meat. There is no need to take tension from anybody. Come on, this is the 21st century. And if u r bad at Maths then there r other options.....I mean look around you, there's Pizza Hut, KFC, Kamat, Delhi Darbar, Chungs, Khana Khazana..............the world is your oyster.

PS:- To lend authenticity to the post I have put up 2 pictures of dishes i made in the past 2 weeks. The pic below is Roast Chicken baked to suit our Indian palate. My mom was not at all sure about the whole idea. And halfway thru the cooking we realised that 2 ingredients were missing. I just substituted with whatever was there in the kitchen. Yes, it was absolutely delicious. The kids arranged the table - that is why the glasses are standing in a queue & more than half the french fries seems to disappeared:-D.

An Apple Pie always reminds me of my trips to Kodaikanal when I was a teeenager. We used to stay in a holiday cottage where the cook made yummy desserts. And whatever the fruit of that season, was made into a pie.........yummy apple, peach and pumpkin pies. Mmmm...those were the good old days.
Before making the Apple Pie I mentally prepared myself not to be disppointed if it didnt turn out good. But it turned out better than I even hoped.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

In HIS eyes....

Hindus, in their capacity for love, are Hairless Christians,
Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus,
Christians, in their devotion to God, are Hat wearing Muslims.

From 'The Life of Pi' by Yann Martel

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A Nation of Hypocrites - Ramesh Ramanathan in MINT

I read a news report a few weeks ago of a terrible incident that took place in Delhi: a 12-year old boy whose bicycle was damaged by a car that was part of a wedding reception. When he asked for compensation so that he could repair his cycle, the people in the party took offence, beat him up and burned him to death in a nearby field. The story was buried in the regional pages, and generated hardly any public outcry.

A few days later, there was a story of a 2-year old child who had been trapped in a borewell – a common occurrence across the country. Incidents like these capture the public imagination, and the media obligingly provides a minute-by-minute report of the rescue efforts.

I wondered at these two occurences and reached an uncomfortable conclusion. We Indians are a nation of hypocrites. Our inconsistencies are not always in such stark and horrific terms, but in thousands of other ways, small and big.

Let me begin with a list of my own inconsistencies: I got my MBA from a prestigious American University, whose founder made his money by profiting from India’s colonisation. I fly business class, even though I profess to work on issues concering the urban poor. I guiltily let the water run when I shave because I find the sound of running water comforting – small trickle, but still. I talk about power sharing in the work that I do, but at home, I struggle to share power with my children.

There are more examples, but this isn’t a therapy session. The point is that I don’t want to sound like a sermonising moral high-grounder; I just want to talk frankly about the challenges we have as Indians.

Hypocrisy is a big issue in most societies, but it’s a particularly problematic one in India. We believe that “mamatha” - a mother’s affection - is a sacred emotion, and yet unflinchingly inflict horrors upon our women. We take bribes, and then hope to wash away our sins by thrusting thousands down the slit-eyed hundis of our temples. We speak of compassion, but show little for the household help who toil away in our homes. We study “moral science” in our schools – whoever coined that phrase – and are tested to see if we got the spelling right when we have the essence wrong.

We learn about civics and citizenship, and yet are often asked – and ask ourselves – why we have such a strong sense of family, but such a poor sense of a larger community: how can our homes be so clean, and our streets so littered with garbage? Clearly, I am generalising here - there are thousands of Indians who would justifiably take offense at being called hypocrites, and for good reason. But they are a minority in today’s India.

Every day, in every sphere – business, politics, social work or sports - across the length and breadth of this country, millions of Indians indulge in acts of hypocrisy that collectively add up to an epidemic.

And yet, it seems that there was some noble past, a link between thought and action, where values were cherished. The signs are there: in the sublime music, in our dance forms, in the incredibly sophisticated material about human spirituality, and so on. So how can a country with so much collective wisdom and spirituality be broken in so apparent a fashion?

It feels that we got massively unhinged somewhere along the way. What is left today is only a frustrating graffitti of greatness: each artefact by itself a tantalising glimpse into a life that was, but somehow dismembered, leaving more questions than answers.

We have lost a sense of individual agency in our thoughts and actions. Like children of over-achieving parents, we seem overwhelmed by the legacy of great ideas in our society. It’s almost like we need to exfoliate these oppressive layers of crusted wisdom that have settled upon our consciousness, and discover our own morality for ourselves. To see the relationship between values, thoughts and actions, and agitate over the inconsistencies that we see in ourselves. To acknowledge that words like "honesty" and "caring" and "respect" are most powerful when displayed in action, not recited by rote.

Getting rid of these layers takes an enormous amount of introspection, a ruthless sense of honesty, and the courage to act upon the schisms when we encounter them. These will be painful. But if we had the perspective to consider our actions, and the courage to correct ourselves, we could rekindle the greatness that our society seems to have once had. And maybe rediscover our moral compass, one person at a time.

To know more about Ramesh Ramanathan, click here.

My friend Sapna Karim, works for Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, founded by Mr. Ramesh Ramanathan. Janaagraha is a non-profit institution aimed at improving the quality of public governance by deepening democracy. Launched in December 2001, more than 100,000 citizens have participated in Janaagraha’s activities, and more than 5,000 volunteers have given their time to support the idea.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

My father’s (S)cars

I was in 2nd standard when my Father bought his first and only scooter – a LAMBY something(most Indians who are above the age of 30 will know this machine I’m talking about). I don’t think he even knew how to ride a bicycle before that. Anyways he practiced and practiced in the nearby ground for some months. Finally his colleagues convinced him that he was ready for the BIG JOURNEY ie. To ride the bike…um…sorry…scooter to office(MG Road) and back(Indranagar). They magnanimously agreed to escort him for the few days. So off he went to office on his scooter with 1 colleague riding in front & another following on his vehicle, behind.

A month later he was more confident; started taking my mom & me on the scooter during weekends. He handled the vehicle the same way he handled everything else……carefully. But one evening while coming back from work an auto brushed against his vehicle & causing him to fall with the scooter on top of him.

A part of his hip was smashed. A top doc came all the way from Delhi, operated on him. To cut the story short, what was supposed to be a 3 months recuperation period stretched to more than a year coz the Doc botched it up. My Father was left with a permanent limp. He sold the scooter during that period & depended on autos[tuk-tuk, as it is called in other countries] for the next 5 years…….until we picked up a car.

The first car was a Standard something(no, not 2000). It was one of those cars where u got into the back seat thru the front door…ie moved the front seat forward and scrambled into the back. It was a small light blue car, second hand ofcourse. My Father wanted to learn driving in that car & then buy a new car later.

One of our neighbors came forward to teach my Father driving in his spare time. My Father took lessons for around 3-6 months before giving up. He knew how to drive but his hip didn’t support him. His left leg reflexes were slower because of his accident. So we had this driver uncle who took us to church & other places and my father paid him some nominal fee for his services.

Whenever driver uncle went out of the city, which was often, the car would lie here unused. Soon the condition of the car started deteriorating. My sister & I slowly started avoiding trips which were made in the car. Too often the car would stall at some pertinent places like in front of our school, church or a friend’s house & everybody we knew would see us pushing the car to get it to start. The worst was my Father would proudly invite whoever he met on the way to ride in “OUR CAR” and he or she would end up helping us push the car at some point during the journey(well ok the situation was not so bad but in the minds of 2 teenagers the embarrassment was magnified)
Once we invited a Priest home for Sunday Lunch. So after church service I very reluctantly got in(coz we didn’t have Sunday school that day) along with the Priest, my Father & the driver. There used to be this railway crossing on the way to our house. All thru the journey I prayed that the gates were not closed for the train to pass thru. My prayers went unanswered. The gates were closed & when it finally opened, the car as usual refused to start. I’ll never forget the sight of the priest tucking his white robe high, gamely pushing the car along with my Father & me.

My Father finally sold the car to some Garage Guy for a pittance. After few weeks GG was seen proudly driving the car everywhere. And everytime he ran into my father he extolled that the car was smooth as a daisy & blah, blah. My Fathers was like “see didn’t I tell u the car was perfectly fine”………… “no value for money”……….and always ended the bhashan with “BIG mistake selling the car”. But my sister & I were relieved, to say the least.

My father then bought another car the next year. It was a Fiat this time. An old car which didn’t clock that many kilometers coz it was previously owned by an elderly couple. Very well maintained & it started immediately on the first try(imagine that;-o). I don’t really remember too many details about this car which means it must have run ok for a few years.
After a few years it was sold off as it was heading the same way as the previous car. Mainly because driver uncle had shifted base to Kerala, which was a big blow to us as it was difficult to get another driver those days.

When I turned eighteen my father sent my mother & me for driving classes. I cleared the test in my first attempt but my mother didn’t(not surprising…..oh don’t get me started on that story). He then invested in a Maruti 800. A white little car. Soon I was driving my family everywhere…….to church, to all the relatives & family friends houses, to wedding and funerals, to the railway station at the crack of dawn to pick some guests & everywhere. My father enjoyed the surprise on the faces of relatives & friends when they saw me driving coz they wouldn’t trust their children to drive their precious car safely. And I relished the envy reflected on their kid’s faces. What they didn’t know was that my father had no choice but to let me drive otherwise he would have to continue forking out money to drivers to cart us everywhere.

Ofcourse it was another story inside the car. As soon as we got into the car my father would turn into a traffic policeman+ guide +roadmap. Then it was “Hold the steering properly, put the indicator, go slow, honk as soon as u see a pedestrian 2 miles away, don’t miss the bump, HORN, GO SLOW, brake, HORN”. Many a trip we traveled together ended in me swearing never to touch his “Precious Car” again. My fathers jaan* was attkofied(for want of a better word)in his car.

To make me drive more carefully he would placate me with “I’m going to Will this car to u, so be very careful with the car” and I would be like “As if I'd want this car, by the time I start earning there will be better cars & I’ll buy one of them”

Once, my sister & I went to the railway station early morning, to collect my uncle & family arriving from Kerala. As we were leaving the station a driverless auto which was parked on the opposite side of the road, came rolling down the slope & hit our car on the side. The not-so-clever auto driver had forgotten to put the hand brake on it. It made a huge dent on the car door. The fight we had with the auto driver didn’t amount to much….just a 150 measly rupees. I had my heart in my mouth as we were nearing the house. Trying to delay the recriminations, I entered the lane from the opposite side so that the dent was not visible to anybody looking from my house. My father was out on the verandah waiting for us. He looked most surprised to see us coming from the opposite side.
After I parked the car in the garage, I slunk into the kitchen and told my mom the whole sorry story. She was most horrified & we went to examine the damage again. My father was already there looking upset. To his credit, he just said “as soon as I saw the car coming from the opposite direction I knew something was wrong” and went away. I felt so terribly guilty. The accident was not my fault but that didn’t make me feel less guilty. He paid Rs.1,400 to repair it……12 yrs back[I still remember]. Even now I feel a pang when I think about it.

After that incident I was doubly careful & took care of the car reasonably well. In some foreign magazine I had read that application of toothpaste would easily erase small cuts and scratches made on a white vehicle. And believe me when I tell u, most of my problems were solved by the toothpaste.

After I married and moved away my father sent my sister for driving classes. She took over for another 5 yrs. After she also married my parents went back to using the services of a driver.

Even after my marriage, whenever I went home for vacation I used to take the car out. Once after meeting my friends, I was going home when an auto screechingly scraped the entire side of the car, on MG Road. The auto disappeared into the crowd before I could even find my voice. I stopped the car at the nearest parking & rushed to survey the damage. My heart stopped. There was an ugly BLACK scratch from the left head-light all the way to the back light. I was so upset. Back in my in laws place, I showed it to the better-half; he didnt look very pleased but said we’ll take it to garage in the evening. All the while my father's upset face kept fading in & out of my mind.

I couldn’t just sit there doing nothing so I took a cup of water, some soap & a cloth to rub the paint off. Maybe I could apply some toothpaste on some parts and the damage won’t look so bad. Gloomily I was trying to rub the marks away all the while fabricating a plausible explanation to my father in my mind. It was 2 minutes before I realized that the mark was dissolving into nothing from all rubbing. I stood back in shock. Then ran into the house & this time emerged with a bucket of water and some shampoo. Husband, seeing all the hectic activity came out. Together we scrubbed at the marks & u won’t believe it, almost 98% of the black scratches dissolved under water and shampoo. The black scratches was just black paint scraped off from the Auto. I muttered my thanks to God a hundred, thousand times. The 1 or 2 light scratches which stubbornly remained were given the toothpaste treatment. There, she looked as good as new.

16 years have past…..the car is still there…...well maintained and gleaming. The vehicle is still my Father's pride and joy:-).

My Father hasn’t forgotten. He has drafted a will and mentioned that amongst other things the car is for me, after his time. He reminds me of it everytime I visit. I smile but no longer do I make fun of it.

*jaan - life in Hindi

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Installing your Husband...

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slow down in overall system performance, particularly in the Flower and Jewelry Applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5 and then installed undesirable programs such as NBA 5.0, NFL 3.0 and Golf Clubs 4.1. Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and Housecleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.

I've tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?


First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System.

Please enter command: Ithoughtyoulovedme.html and try to download Tears 6.2 and don't forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update.

If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5.

But remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, HappyHour 7.0 or Beer 6.1.
Please note that Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.
Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-In-Law 1.0 (itruns a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of allyour system resources.)

Also do not attempt to reinstall Boyfriend 5.0program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly.

You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance.

We recommend Cooking 3.0 and Hot Lingerie 6.9.

Good Luck,

Tech Support

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Sudha Narayana Murthy

A worthy read.....

The first step which one makes in the world as a child, is the one on which depends the rest of our days... My steps were piloted by my family on values like truth, simplicity, love and respect for all. I was born in 1950 in a middle class family. My father Sri R H Kulkarni was a doctor in a government hospital, my mother Vimala Kulkarni was a housewife. I am the second child in a family of three daughters and one son. I spent a great part of my early years with my maternal grandparents.

My grandfather, Sri H R Kadim Diwan, was a true Gandhian who opted out of law school because his teacher said that sometimes, he might have to manipulate the truth to win lawsuits. He was 63 years older than me but we were best friends. He was a scholar who inculcated in me a love for books, history, mathematics and India. Without realizing it, he also instilled a free and adventurous spirit within me.

I taught my 62 year old grandmother to read and write... My grandmother, though illiterate was an ardent fan of Triveni, a renowned writer in Kannada. Every Wednesday grandma used to finish her household chores and would be waiting for me to read her Triveni's serial called 'Kashi Yatre'. One Wednesday I was unable to keep our afternoon reading-appointment. Grandma felt helpless and frustrated. There was the magazine, she touched the words but couldn't read them. I asked her, Awwa, do you want to read and write? She replied, I am 62. Will I be able to read now? I was 12 when I became my grandmother's teacher. A year later, grandma began reading 'Kashi Yatre' on her own. IT IS VERY TRUE THAT THE INK OF THE SCHOLAR IS MORE SACRED THAN THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYR.* It can change people's lives.

I love writing. For me, writing is like breathing. I have been writing from a young age and I have written 10 books so far novels, technical and educational books. A boy who had broken off his engagement with his fiancée after learning she had leucoderma decided to marry her after reading my novel "Mahaswete" which was about a girl with leucoderma. To realize that my novel had made a difference in somebody's life was the ultimate reward I could get as a writer.

My parents never bought us jewellery or expensive clothes but we had an extensive library at home... My family was academically oriented and education was a priority in the Kulkarni household. My father had never bought a fridge (which he ultimately did much later in life) but he would buy us books. I never had any silk saris or jewellery but what I had were books and more books. My older sister Sunanda is a distinguished doctor. My other sister Jayshree Deshpande is an IIT graduate from Chennai and is married to Gururaj Deshpande whose name appeared in the Forbes list. My brother Srinivas Kulkarni is a world renowned astrophysicist.

I was the first girl to study engineering which was considered a male domain in Hubli. Friends and neighbors tried to discourage my parents saying nobody would marry an engineering graduate. Since getting me married was not on top of the list at that time, but education was, my parents relented.

I joined BE Electricals in 1968 at the BVB College of Engineering in Hubli. In the beginning it was awkward. The college had no ladies room or toilet for girls because there were no girls in college. I had to wait, uncomfortably till I got home. After a year-and-a-half the authorities built a ladies toilet in the college premises. There were 250 boys in the class and I used to be ragged mercilessly. I wanted a degree in engineering and no amount of teasing was going to stop me from reaching my goal. I never missed one day of class in five years of my degree. Because I knew if I was absent even for a day there would be no one to share that day's notes with me.

After a year-and-a-half the boys came around. They realized I was no floozy and we went on to become great friends. I stood first in the University. Now, my father was keen that I do M.Tech. So, I went to Bangalore to study MTech at the Tata Institute of Engineering.

I had decided to study abroad for a PhD degree or study at MIT when fate intervened. One day, during my last semester of MTech in Bangalore, I came across a notice in college which read: Telco Pune wants young, bright, hard working engineers. There will be a campus interview.... Lady students need not apply. The last line jolted me. Why this discrimination? I bought a post card which I addressed to JRD Tata and wrote:

Benevolent Tatas who have done so much philanthropic work... innovative Tatas who started the first iron and steel industry, textile industries.... I am surprised and ashamed at your attitude toward women students. If you can do this, then anybody can do it. A week later I received a letter asking me to attend an interview at Telco at their expense. I decided to attend the interview if not for anything else then at least for the free ride and to buy Pune saris for friends and relatives.

At Telco I realized that I was the only candidate called for the interview. I also heard someone whispering, that’s the girl who wrote to the big boss. I thought I will not get the job. When you have no expectations you have no fear. So, I boldly told the panel not to waste time if they were not serious about the interview and saw it as a form of vindication. The creditable panel interviewed me for 2 1/2 hours asking purely technical questions which I answered. At the end one of the panel members, Satyapalli Sarvamurthy, who later became my boss, explained why they did not want ladies at Telco.

People here have to work in shifts, he said, and that might pose a problem for a lady on the shop floor full of men. Secondly, you will have to drive a jeep. Lastly, we spend considerable time and energy training people. This is wasted when a girl trainee gets married as she quits and goes to live with her husband.

I assured them that I was willing to work in shifts and that I will never play my gender card. If my grandmother could learn to read and write at 62, I could learn to drive a jeep at 23. And yes, I will go to live with my husband when I get married. I asked the panel how many of them were married and how many of them have gone to live with their wives. None. When they have followed a 1000 year-old male-favoring tradition why should they expect anything different from me? Yes, I will leave to live with my husband when I get married but unlike a boy who might leave them if he gets an additional 100 rupees at a rival company, I will not quit Telco even if I am offered huge sums of money. I assured them my loyalty.

The panel was flabbergasted and said they will let me know the results of the interview in a week's time. This was a sure sign of getting dumped. And I had no burning desire to work at Telco. When there is no desire there is no fear. I boldly took the panel to task. I demanded an immediate reply since they had technically spent 10 man hours interviewing me. If they couldn't decide on the same day what made them think they could arrive at a conclusion after seven days? To my surprise I was offered a job at Telco, Pune with a salary of Rs 1500 per month which was to be later increased to Rs 5000 per month. They were not willing to provide me with hostel facilities during my two-year training period on the shop floor.

I became morally obligated to take up the job at Telco though I wanted to study further at MIT... I wasn't too keen on the job because I had already decided to go to MIT. But it was my father who made me realise my responsibilities chiding me for writing to JRD on a postcard. You should have done it with some etiquette, he said. He told me that I couldn't and shouldn't back down now.

Your action might make it difficult for other girls to get a job at Telco in the future. They might hold you as a yardstick and you will be setting a bad example. You are morally responsible to take up that job, he bellowed.

I joined Telco Pune in 1974. This incident taught me the importance of having insight in life and never act on impulse. The men on the Telco shop floor were hostile... In 1974, I became the first woman to work on the shop floor of Telco, a male bastion till then. To say the environment was hostile is an understatement. The men were rude and refused to take orders from me a woman.

They even prevented me from doing my work since it was always done by their manager, a man. The attitude hurt me but did not affect me. My goal was nothing but to excel at my work. So I was duty bound to overcome all obstacles. I wasn't going to let a few trouser clad homo-sapiens dissuade me. I believe in saving energy for the big fights and refrained from asserting myself. Initially, I would do my work with no interaction with the men. Then I learnt their language as half the battle is won when you can speak the adversary's language.

They began letting me step into their space. My stint at the shop floor has been a boon because today I have a greater cross reference of mechanical industry than Murty. I worked in Jamshedpur and in Bihar too.

It was in Pune that I met Narayan Murty through my friend Prasanna who is now the Wipro chief, who was also training in Telco. Most of the books that Prasanna lent me had Murty's name on them which meant that I had a preconceived image of the man.

Contrary to expectation, Murty was shy, bespectacled and an introvert. When he invited us for dinner. I was a bit taken aback as I thought the young man was making a very fast move. I refused since I was the only girl in the group. But Murty was relentless and we all decided to meet for dinner the next day at 7.30 pm at Green Fields hotel on the Main Road, Pune. The next day I went there at 7 o clock since I had to go to the tailor near the hotel. And what do I see? Mr Murty waiting in front of the hotel and it was only seven. Till today, Murty maintains that I had mentioned (consciously!) that I would be going to the tailor at 7 so that I could meet him. And I maintain that I did not say any such thing consciously or unconsciously because I did not think of Murty as anything other than a friend at that stage. We have agreed to disagree on this matter.

Soon, we became friends. Our conversations were filled with Murty's experiences abroad and the books that he has read. My friends insisted that Murty was trying to impress me because he was interested in me. I kept denying it till one fine day, after dinner Murty said, I want to tell you something. I knew this was it. It was coming. He said, I am 5'4" tall. I come from a lower middle class family. I can never become rich in my life and I can never give you any riches. You are beautiful, bright, intelligent and you can get anyone you want. But will you marry me? I asked Murty to give me some time for an answer.

When I went to Hubli I told my parents about Murty and his proposal. My mother was positive since Murty was also from Karnataka, seemed intelligent and comes from a good family. But my father asked: What's his job, his salary, his qualifications etc? Murty was working as a research assistant and was earning less than me. He was willing to go dutch with me on our outings.

My parents agreed to meet Murty in Pune on a particular day at 10 a. m sharp. Murty did not turn up. How can I trust a man to take care of my daughter if he cannot keep an appointment, asked my father. At 12 noon Murty turned up in a bright red shirt! He had gone on work to Bombay, was stuck in a traffic jam on the ghats, so he hired a taxi (though it was very expensive for him) to meet his would-be father-in-law. My father was unimpressed. My father asked him what he wanted to become in life. Murty said he wanted to become a politician in the communist party and wanted to open an orphanage.

My father gave his verdict. No. I don't want my daughter to marry somebody who wants to become a communist and then open an orphanage when he himself didn't have money to support his family. Ironically, today, I have opened many orphanages something which Murty wanted to do 25 years ago.

By this time I realized I had developed a liking towards Murty which could only be termed as love. I wanted to marry Murty because he is an honest man. He proposed to me highlighting the negatives in his life. I promised my father that I will not marry Murty without his blessings though at the same time, I cannot marry anybody else. My father said he would agree if Murty promised to take up a steady job. But Murty refused saying he will not do things in life because somebody wanted him to. So, I was caught between the two most important people in my life. The stalemate continued for three years during which our courtship took us to every restaurant and cinema hall in Pune.

In those days, Murty was always broke. Moreover, he didn't earn much to manage. Ironically today, he manages Infosys Technologies Ltd one of the world's most reputed companies. He always owed me money. We used to go for dinner and he would say, I don't have money with me, you pay my share, I will return it to you later. For three years I maintained a book on Murty's debt to me. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after my wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4000. During this interim period Murty quit his job as research assistant and started his own software business. Now, I had to pay his salary too!

Towards the late 70s computers were entering India in a big way. During the fag end of 1977 Murty decided to take up a job as General Manager at Patni Computers in Bombay. But before he joined the company he wanted to marry me since he was to go on training to the US after joining. My father gave in as he was happy Murty had a decent job, now.


I went to the US with Murty after marriage. Murty encouraged me to see America on my own because I loved travelling. I toured America for three months on backpack and had interesting experiences which will remain fresh in my mind forever. Like the time when I was taken into custody by the New York police because they thought I was an Italian trafficking drugs in Harlem. Or the time when I spent the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with an old couple. Murty panicked because he couldn't get a response from my hotel room even at midnight. He thought I was either killed or kidnapped.

IN 1981 MURTY WANTED TO START INFOSYS. HE HAD A VISION AND ZERO CAPITAL... Initially I was very apprehensive about Murty getting into business. We did not have any business background. Moreover we were living a comfortable life in Bombay with a regular pay check and I didn't want to rock the boat. But Murty was passionate about creating good quality software. I decided to support him. Typical of Murty, he just had a dream and no money. So I gave him Rs 10,000 which I had saved for a rainy day, without his knowledge and told him, this is all I have. Take it. I give you three years sabbatical leave. I will take care of the financial needs of our house. You go and chase your dreams without any worry. But you have only three years!.

Murty and his six colleagues started Infosys in 1981, with enormous interest and hard work. In 1982 I left Telco and moved to Pune with Murty. We bought a small house on loan which also became the Infosys office. I was a clerk-cum-cook-cum-programmer. I also took up a job as Senior Systems Analyst with Walchand group of Industries to support the house. In 1983 Infosys got their first client, MICO, in Bangalore.

Murty moved to Bangalore and stayed with his mother while I went to Hubli to deliver my second child, Rohan. Ten days after my son was born, Murty left for the US on project work. I saw him only after a year as I was unable to join Murty in the US because my son had infantile eczema, an allergy to vaccinations. So for more than a year I did not step outside our home for fear of my son contracting an infection. It was only after Rohan got all his vaccinations that I came to Bangalore where we rented a small house in Jayanagar and rented another house as Infosys headquarters. My father presented Murty a scooter to commute. I once again became a cook, programmer, clerk, secretary, office assistant et al. Nandan Nilekani (MD of Infosys) and his wife Rohini stayed with us. While Rohini baby sat my son, I wrote programmes for Infosys.

There was no car, no phone, just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape. It was not only me but the wives of other partners too who gave their unstinted support. We all knew that our men were trying to build something good. It was like a big joint family, taking care and looking out for one another. I still remember Sudha Gopalakrishna looking after my daughter Akshata with all care and love while Kumari Shibulal cooked for all of us.

Murty made it very clear that it would either be me or him working at Infosys. Never the two of us together... I was involved with Infosys initially. Nandan Nilekani suggested I should be on the Board but Murty said he did not want a husband and wife team at Infosys. I was shocked since I had the relevant experience and technical qualifications. He said, Sudha if you want to work with Infosys, I will withdraw, happily. I was pained to know that I will not be involved in the company my husband was building and that I would have to give up a job that I am qualified to do and love doing. It took me a couple of days to grasp the reason behind Murty's request. I realised that to make Infosys a success one had to give one's 100 percent. One had to be focussed on it alone with no other distractions. If the two of us had to give 100 percent to Infosys then what would happen to our home and our children? One of us had to take care of our home while the other took care of Infosys. I opted to be a homemaker, after all Infosys was Murty's dream. It was a big sacrifice but it was one that had to be made. Even today, Murty says, Sudha, I stepped on your career to make mine. You are responsible for my success.

I might have given up my career for my husband's sake. But that does not make me a doormat... Many think that I have been made the sacrificial lamb at Narayan Murty's altar of success. A few women journalists have even accused me of setting a wrong example by giving up my dreams to make my husbands a reality. Isn’t freedom about living your life the way you want it? What is right for one person might be wrong for another. It is up to the individual to make a choice that is effective in her life. I feel that when a woman gives up her right to choose for herself is when she crosses over from being an individual to a doormat. Murty's dreams encompassed not only himself but a generation of people. It was about founding something worthy, exemplary and honorable. It was about creation and distribution of wealth. His dreams were grander than my career plans, in all aspects. So, when I had to choose between Murty's career and mine, I opted for what I thought was a right choice.

We had a home and two little children. Measles, mumps, fractures, PTA meetings, wants and needs of growing children do not care much for grandiose dreams. They just needed to be attended to. Somebody had to take care of it all. Somebody had to stay back to create a home base that would be fertile for healthy growth, happiness, and more dreams to dream. I became that somebody willingly.

I can confidently say that if I had had a dream like Infosys, Murty would have given me his unstinted support. The roles would have been reversed. We are not bound by the archaic rules of marriage. I cook for him but I don't wait up to serve dinner like a traditional wife. So, he has no hassles about heating up the food and having his dinner. He does not intrude into my time especially when I am writing my novels. He does not interfere in my work at the Infosys Foundation and I don't interfere with the running of Infosys. I teach Computer Science to MBA and MCA students at Christ College for a few hours every week and I earn around Rs 50,000 a year. I value this financial independence greatly though there is no need for me to pursue a teaching career. Murty respects that. I travel all over the world without Murty because he hates travelling. We trust each other implicitly. We have another understanding too. While he earns the money, I spend it, mostly through the charity.

Philanthropy is a profession and an art... The Infosys Foundation was born in 1997 with the sole objective of uplifting the less-privileged sections of society. IN THE PAST THREE YEARS WE HAVE BUILT HOSPITALS, ORPHANAGES, REHABILITATION CENTRES, SCHOOL BUILDINGS, SCIENCE CENTRES AND MORE THAN 3500 LIBRARIES. Our work is mainly in the rural areas amongst women and children. I am one of the trustees and our activities span six states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa, Chandigarh and Maharashtra. I travel to around 800 villages constantly. Infosys Foundation has a minimal staff of three trustees and three office members. We all work very hard to achieve our goals and that is the reason why Infosys Foundation has a distinct identity.

Every year we donate around Rs 5-6 crore (Rs 50 - 60 million). We run Infosys Foundation the way Murty runs Infosys in a professional and scientific way. Philanthropy is a profession and an art. It can be used or misused. We slowly want to increase the donations and we dream of a time when Infosys Foundation could donate large amounts of money. Every year we receive more than 10,000 applications for donations. Everyday I receive more than 120 calls. Amongst these, there are those who genuinely need help and there are hood winkers too.

I receive letters asking me to donate Rs Five lakh to someone because five lakh is, like peanuts to Infosys. Some people write to us asking for free Infosys shares. Over the years I have learnt to differentiate the wheat from the chaff, though I still give a patient hearing to all the cases. Sometimes I feel I have lost the ability to trust people. I have become shrewder to avoid being conned. It saddens me to realize that even as a person is talking to me I try to analyze them: Has he come here for any donation? Why is he praising my work or enquiring about my health, does he want some money from me? Eight out of ten times I am right. They do want my money. But I feel bad for the other two whom I suspected. I think that is the price that I have to pay for the position that I am in now.

The greatest difficulty in having money is teaching your children the value of it and trying to keep them on a straight line... Bringing up children in a moneyed atmosphere is a difficult task. EVEN TODAY I THINK TWICE IF I HAVE TO SPEND RS 10 ON AN AUTO WHEN I CAN WALK UP TO MY HOUSE. I cannot expect my children to do the same. They have seen money from the time they were born. But we can lead by example. When they see Murty wash his own plate after eating and clean the two toilets in the house everyday they realise that no work is demeaning irrespective of how rich you are.

I DON'T HAVE A MAID AT HOME BECAUSE I DON'T SEE THE NEED FOR ONE. When children see both parents working hard, living a simple life, most of the time they tend to follow. This doesn't mean we expect our children to live an austere life. My children buy what they want and go where they want but they have to follow certain rules. They will have to show me a bill for whatever they buy. My daughter can buy five new outfits but she has to give away five old ones. My son can go out with his friends for lunch or dinner but if he wants to go to a five star hotel, we discourage it. Or we accompany him.

So far my children haven't given me any heartbreak. They are good children. My eldest daughter is studying abroad, whereas my son is studying in Bangalore. They don't use their father's name in vain. If asked, they only say that his name is Murty and that he works for Infosys. They don't want to be recognised and appreciated because of their father or me but for themselves.

Our only extravagance is buying books and CDs. MY HOUSE HAS NO LOCKERS FOR I HAVE NO JEWELS. I WEAR A STONE EARRING WHICH I BOUGHT IN BOMBAY FOR RS 100. I don't even wear my mangalsutra until I attend some family functions or I am with my mother-in-law. I am not fond of jewellery or saris. Five years ago, I went to Kashi where tradition demands that you give up something and I gave up shopping. Since then I haven't bought myself a sari or gone shopping. It is my friends who gift me with saris. Murty bought me a sari a long time ago. It was not to my taste and I told him to refrain from buying saris for me in the future. I am no good at selecting men's clothes either. It is my daughter who does the shopping for us. I still have the same sofa at home which my daughter wants to change. However, we have indulged ourselves with each one having their own music system and computer.

I don't carry a purse and neither does Murty most of the time. I do tell him to keep some small change with him but he doesn't. I borrow money from my secretary or my driver if I need cash. They know my habit so they always carry extra cash with them. But I settle the accounts every evening. MURTY AND I ARE VERY COMFORTABLE WITH OUR LIFESTYLE AND WE DON'T SEE THE NEED TO CHANGE IT NOW THAT WE HAVE MONEY.

Murty and I are two opposites that complement each other... Murty is sensitive and romantic in his own way. He always gifts me books addressed to From Me to You. Or to the person I most admire etc. We both love books. We are both complete opposites. I am an extrovert and he is an introvert. I love watching movies and listening to classical music. Murty loves listening to English classical music. I go out for movies with my students and secretary every other week. I am still young at heart. I really enjoyed watching "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" and I am a Hrithik Roshan fan. It has been more than 20 years since Murty and I went for a movie. My daughter once gave us a surprise by booking tickets for "Titanic". Since I had a prior engagement that day, Murty went for the movie with his secretary Pandu. I love travelling whereas Murty loves spending time at home.

Friends come and go with the share prices... Even in my dreams, I did not expect Infosys to grow like the way it has. I don't think even Murty envisioned this phenomenal success, at least not in 1981. After Infosys went public in 1993, we became what people would call as rich, moneyed people. I was shocked to see what was happening to Infosys and to us. Suddenly you see and hear about so much money. Your name and photo is splashed in the papers. People talk about you. It was all new to me.


But that doesn't mean I don't have true friends. I do have genuine friends, a handful, who have been with me for a very long time. My equation with these people has not changed and vice versa. I am also very close to Narayan Murty's family, especially my sister-in-law Kamala Murty, a school teacher, who is more of a dear friend to me. I have discovered that these are the few relationships and friendships that don't fluctuate depending on the price of Infosys shares.

Have I lost my identity as a woman, in Murty's shadow?...
No. I might be Mrs Narayan Murty. I might be Akshata and Rohan's mother. I might be the trustee of Infosys Foundation. But I am still Sudha. I play different roles like all women. That doesn't mean we don't have our own identity. Women have that extra quality of adaptability and learn to fit into different shoes. But we are our own selves still. And we have to exact our freedom by making the right choices in our lives, dictated by us and not by the world.

SOURCE: SAVVY August 2000