Murthy and the National Anthem: Old wine, new bottle?

Narayan Murthy..the entire blogosphere seems to be discussing his stand on the ’embarrassing’ national anthem-are we making a mountain out of a molehill, or is it time to re-examine our thought process?

For those who came in late, Narayan Murthy, the co-founder of the giant software company Infosys, represented the reel Gurukant Desai in real life-the son of a Karnataka school teacher who rose to great heights with sheer hard work and a spate of luck. He retired from Infosys Chairmanship last year, handing over the reins to co-founder Nandan Nilekhani, and now functions in the capacity of Non-Executive Chairman, besides membership in other decision-making boards of various companies.

The controversy: our President Hon Kalam ji visited Infosys, Mysore, last week, and as per protocol, the national anthem had to be played to receive and send-off the Hon President. In a twist worthy of Christie, Narayan Murthy decided to have the instrumental version of the national anthem played, and the good-natured Kalam ji sang along-albeit alone. It would have ended there, perhaps, if not for Murthy explaining the reason for the instrumental version: apparently, it would be rather “embarrassing” for the foreign employees and interns at Infosys to hear the Indian National Anthem, for they wouldn’t be able to join in the singing.

Ironical statement-considering the fact that 90% of viewers of a popular news channel voted for Murthy to succeed Kalam ji as President just a few days before this event. Another irony-the previous day, news whizzed in reporting the cutting of a cake with colors of the Indian tri-color by cricket ‘maestro’ Sachin Tendulkar in West Indies.

The Indian Constitution describes the Fundamental Rights viz. Right to Equality, Right to Particular Freedom, Cultural and Educational Rights, Right to Freedom of Religion, Right Against Exploitation and Right to Constitutional Remedies. When we claim our Fundamental Rights in the annals of the Indian Judiciary, are aware that along with Rights, the Fathers of our Constitution have also laid down certain Fundamental Duties, which must be performed by every citizen of the Nation? The first duty: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

Are we embossing public images like Murthy and Tendulkar with sparkles of glamour and glitterati to such a high extent that we tend to excuse their wantonly imbecilic doings? Have we become that entwined with their lives that we subconsciously downplay their actions and reactions in sensitive situations? Of course, Murthy has already apologised, and so will Tendulkar, when his media manager tells him that another apology from his stables is due. But is this the end of the discussion?

We, avatars of Laxman’s Common Man, forgave the Film Industry’s heart-throbs Salman Khan and party when they brutally killed endangered animals a decade ago, we forgave Khan’s negligent driving when he ran over innocent labourers sleeping on the footpath, we forgave our cricketers involved in the dirty game of match-fixing (they got us the World Cup in 1983-that erases all their faults), we forgave macho Dutt’s ‘links’ with the mafia, and in barely a few months, Murthy and Tendulkar’s disrespect would be forgotten, too.

I’m brashly sarcastic about the Indian nature of ‘forgiveness’, but that obviously doesn’t imply that we must string the public figures by the thumbs or resort to some other ancient form- we need to tackle this issue with an open mind through self-assessment, and we also need to imply, through our actions rather than words, that we are a no-nonsense people-we will tolerate wrong-doings neither by stalwarts of the public domain nor by our next-door neighbour, for we believe in the Lady of Justice, and her scales do not tilt towards the famous.

Words uttered by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist, dramatist and historian, ring true…

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice…

May we awake to realities which bind us not but shape our wings and enable us to grow into Children of the Light.


One thought on “Murthy and the National Anthem: Old wine, new bottle?

  1. Akshaya

    This is superb writing. Count me among your fans…I am gonna add you to my blogroll.

    Lachu Anna

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