Asudhir17
Agm Ehs And Project Management

THE GIRL WRITING AS HERSELF.... Truly Inspirational. Read Complete.

It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and

gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my

postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies' hostel. Other

girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science. I

was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in

computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in

the US... I had not thought of taking up a job in India.

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex,

I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard

job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now

Tata Motors)... It stated that the company required young, bright

engineers, hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.

At the bottom was a small line: 'Lady Candidates need not apply.' I

read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up

against gender discrimination.

Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I

had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male

peers... Little did I know then that in real life academic excellence

is not enough to be successful?

After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform

the topmost person in Telco's management about the injustice the

company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but

there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco

I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of

the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually,

Sumant Moolgaokar was the company's chairman then) I took the card,

addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember

clearly what I wrote. 'The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They

are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in

India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives

they have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were

responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science.

Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as

Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.'

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I

received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at

Telco's Pune facility at the company's expense. I was taken aback by

the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to

go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap!

I collected Rs30 each from everyone who wanted a sari when I look

back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then

they seemed good enough to make the trip.

It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city.

To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I

do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways.

As directed, I went to Telco's Pimpri office for the interview. There

were six people on the panel and I realized then that this was serious

business. 'This is the girl who wrote to JRD,' I heard somebody

whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I

would not get the job. The realization abolished all fear from my

mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.

Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so

I told them, rather impolitely, 'I hope this is only a technical

interview.'

They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed

about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I

answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, 'Do you

know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we

have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed

college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a

first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you

should work in research laboratories.

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited

place. I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their

difficulties, so I answered, 'But you must start somewhere, otherwise

no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.' Finally, after

a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what

the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a

job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became

good friends and we got married.

It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the

uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get

to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to show

some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I

was in his office on the first floor of Bombay House (the Tata

headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I

saw 'appro JRD'. Appro means 'our' in Gujarati. This was the

affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him. I was

feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced

me nicely, 'Jeh (that's what his close associates called him), this

young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.

She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.' JRD looked at me.

I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or

the postcard that preceded it).

Thankfully, he didn't. Instead, he remarked. 'It is nice that girls

are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your

name?'

'When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,' I replied. 'Now I am

Sudha Murthy.' He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion

with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room.

After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group

chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had

in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after

office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not

know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard.

Looking back, I realize JRD had forgotten about it. It must have been

a small incident for him, but not so for me.

'Young lady, why are you here?' he asked. 'Office time is over.' I

said, 'Sir, I'm waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.' JRD

said, 'It is getting dark and there's no one in the corridor.

I'll wait with you till your husband comes.' I was quite used to

waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely

uncomfortable.

I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a

simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing.

There wasn't any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, 'Look

at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country

and he is waiting for the sake of an ordinary employee.'

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, 'Young lady,

tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.' In 1982 I had to

resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did

not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after

wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was

absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He

saw me and paused.

Gently, he said, 'So what are you doing, Mrs. Kulkarni?' (That was the

way he always addressed me.) 'Sir, I am leaving Telco.'

'Where are you going?' he asked. 'Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a

company called Infosys and I'm shifting to Pune.' 'Oh! And what will

you do when you are successful.'

'Sir, I don't know whether we will be successful.' 'Never start with

diffidence,' he advised me 'Always start with confidence. When you are

successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we

must reciprocate. Wish you all the best.' Then JRD continued walking

up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That

was the last time I saw him alive. Many years later I met Ratan Tata

in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him

of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to

me, 'It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he's

not alive to see you today.'

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy

person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking

justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could

have thrown mine away, but he didn't do that. He respected the

intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money,

and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her

a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today's engineering colleges

are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry

segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops

and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive

today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have

enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the

passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model

for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took

of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they

had the same vastness and magnificence. (Sudha Murthy is a widely

published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in

a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayana

Murthy is her husband.)

Article sourced from: Lasting Legacies (Tata Review- Special

Commemorative Issue 2004), brought out by the house of Tatas to

commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of JRD Tata on July 29, 2004 .

Sudha Murthy and Narayana Murthy
22nd September 2012 From India, Coimbatore
Dear Sir, I have read two Books written by Ms. Sudha Murthy in local language Marathi. It is good to again go through the Motivational Story. Thank you for the post. Thanks & Regards, Sudhir
22nd September 2012 From India, Nasik
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