A Brush with Greatness

I have often tried to understand: what forms the greatness in a person? The description of greatness may be disputed. However, once in a while, you come across a person, you hear him talk, you observe him and then, without any obvious written reason/description, you feel you are in the company of someone great. No matter how people would describe “greatness”, when you finally meet a “great” person despite the definitions you have learned of greatness, you get a feeling of the greatness in that person.

Well, I cannot be more elaborate than that. Last Saturday, I was part of a team which would meet the Infosys management with regard to a certain project of which I am not authorised to write anything here. I was only told we would be meeting a few Directors from Infosys; however, I had no idea whatsoever that we were going to meet the grand old doyen of Infosys, Mr. Narayana Murthy himself. The meeting began immediately after NRN (as he is fondly known) entered the room. Ten minutes into the meeting, he had to excuse himself for something very urgent. Half an hour later, though, he returned extremely apologetic for having left us in the middle of the meeting earlier.

Needless to say, the meeting then went on for a longer time than it was originally supposed to. At the end of the meeting, the visionary leader had a few questions and our team gave all the necessary clarifications. Very gently, he got up from his seat and addressed, “I am extremely sorry for having kept you waiting earlier. I would also like you to join for lunch.”

Well, in most places, this would mean that we are led to a cafeteria and would have to eat from whatever was available there. I was in for a surprise. To say the least, Infosys’ hospitality amazes me. The scale to which they took care of their guests was just too good. In the dining hall, we were all asked to accompany NRN at his table. Incidentally, I sat right next to him. When everyone was seated, the soup was served. There were a few foreigners as well in our team. During the buffet lunch afterwards, I heard NRN asking the waiters if there would be something of taste for the foreigners as well. Well, of course, there was. But, at his level, did it really matter? Why would anyone want to go into the details?

When he had already finished having lunch, we had only started with ours. Yet, he waited. There were a few from the Senior management who kept calling him for another meeting. But, NRN wouldn’t budge. “These are my guests. I have invited them to lunch. How can I leave them in between?” In spite of our assurances that we wouldn’t mind, NRN stayed till the end of the lunch until we had the last dip of dessert.

About an hour later, after this man had eventually excused himself for his next meeting, I sat analysing what I had just experienced. While at the table, I had kept my ears tuned to pick whatever he would say. There was something else about this man that I wouldn’t realise until a little later on my way back to Bangalore City.


N R Narayana Murthy (Photo Courtesy: The Infosys Website - http://www.infosys.com)

There’s very less written about NRN Murthy that we already do not know of. My intentions are only to share my experiences in the light of which I analyse him. In spite of his position, there was a kind of humility and humbleness which is generally unseen these days even in men who haven’t achieved half as much. In hospitality, there would be no greater example than this for “Atithi Devo Bhava!”. But, what formed the greatness in him?

On the way back to Bangalore City, I was still pondering over the experience of that afternoon when the greatest learning occurred. Not for once during our entire meeting and the lunch afterwards, had Murthy wasted a single word. He would either say the right thing, a good suggestion or he would say nothing at all. This – kind of – fell in line with another thought shared by a friend a few days back: If you are intelligent and you can talk and write well, there’s nothing that could stop a man from achieving greatness. Well, at the end of the day, I had one more quality to add to that: the ability to refrain from talking. If Murthy had tried to respond intelligently to everything that was discussed on that day, I wouldn’t have noticed the greatness in him. We identify wisdom in Murthy because he does not talk all the time. He respects the people around him and their capacity for judgment. And, he talks only when it is required.

It is, as Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has said, “… You may speak good; Or, remain quiet!”

There may be other traits to greatness, as well. In the light of my meeting with NRN, I have only reproduced my personal feelings on the matter. Do write to me with your thoughts! Good Day, Good Night!!!


2 thoughts on “A Brush with Greatness

  1. HiSuhi,
    I want to emulate NRN.

    Wish I could?

    Once MohanDas Pai in a green Session said, Mr.Murthy bathes in One bucket of Water ,because he craves for conservation of precious water.

    I do not want to speak,or write more… lest my greatness will be
    de-rated (Hee..Hee )

    Good Script. Keep it up !

    Sarat Nair

  2. Nair Sir,
    Most International Architects started designing marvelous buildings in their 70’s. you can still repeat the history (as an engineer contrastingly).

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