Narayana Murthy, co-founder, Infosys Ltd, reveals his gentle and vulnerable side in his letter to daughter Akshata. The joke in the Murthy family is that Akshata is the only person Murthy is scared of as she is the only one who can rein him in. Since founding Infosys, says Murthy, the only boss he has known is his daughter.
When Akshata entered their lives, Murthy and wife, Sudha, were struggling to find their feet in their careers and discovered within months of her birth that it was a difficult task to nurture a child and manage their careers side by side. So they decided that Akshata would spend the initial years of her life with her grandparents in Hubli. In a deeply personal letter to his daughter Murthy writes, Naturally, it was a hard decision to make, one which took me quite a bit of time to come to terms with. Every weekend, I would take the plane to Belgaum and then hire a car to Hubli. It was very expensive, but I couldnt do without seeing you.
Part of Sudha Menons Legacy, which is a compilation of a series of letters written by some of the most iconic figures of today and addressed to their daughters, Murthy has shown a side of him rarely seen by others. Akshatas arrival changed him forever, writes Murthy. Becoming a father to you, my dear child, transformed me in such a way that I could never go back to being the same person I used to be before... I was no more just a husband, a son or a promising employee at one of Indias fastest growing companies. I was also a father who would grow to become a hero to his daughter; a man who, in her eyes, could do no wrong, and I had no choice but to measure up to those expectations every day of my life. Your birth raised the benchmark for every aspect of my life, including my work life. My interactions at the workplace had to be more thoughtful and measured, the quality of my transactions with the outside world had to be more considerate, dignified and more mature, and I had to deal with every human being more sensitively and courteously.
Narayana Murthy, Prakash Padukone, Kishore Biyani, Ajay Piramal, Capt Gopinath, Chanda Kochhar, KV Kamath, Mallika Sarabhai, Shaheen Mistry and Zia Mody are some of the parents who have written letters to their daughters in this book. These are parents who have achieved success in the worlds of business, arts and sports, and they are passing on their stories to their daughters and guiding them in their lives ahead.
In his letters to his daughters, Ashni and Avni, Future Groups chairperson Kishore Biyani writes that he has been an unconventional father, with an unusual parent-child relationship, where he has been at their beck and call being ordered around by them rather than being the authoritative parent who sought to impose rules in their lives. Ashni is director, Future Ideas, and Avni is spearheading Foodhall, the groups new gourmet chain.
Biyani says everything he learnt about business and life was from the huge joint family he grew up in. I believe business education boxes people completely. I did not train both of you in either accounts and balance sheet or profit and loss issue, but I am glad I got you interested in humanities. While understanding the nuances of finance is very important, I knew you would learn these anyway while being involved in the business. If you had first learnt about finance or business in classrooms, I believe you wouldnt have gathered the ability to learn the softer aspects of life, the importance of understanding human beings, society, social trends and cultureall of which are just as important in a consumer business like ours. At a superficial level, you may find that the world values the people who can talk suavely about numbers and discuss balance sheets. But it is my belief and experience that in the long run, it is people who matter. It is how you understand and interpret people, how you deal with them and inspire them, and how you lead and challenge them that decides how successful and happy you are. The training you receive in a classroom can only help you to an extent. Life has been my best teacher. Ashni, Avni, you have both grown up hearing me talk about the importance of human values... I believe that the source of everything in life is our thoughts, vichaar, soch. For me, there isnt a separate set of values for business and another set of values for ones personal life. All my values are intertwined and what I practice at home is the same as what happens between me and my team work. To me the study of human behavior is the most important. Once you understand how and why human beings behave the way they do, it is easy to learn business.
Badminton player Prakash Padukone tells daughter actor Deepika that at home she is not a star so that she remains rooted to reality and does not get carried away by the glitter of the showbiz world. Showbiz is about make-believe. Everybody will rush to do things for you and pander to your every desire when you are on top. But the camera that follow you everywhere will eventually fade and what will remain is the real world. If you occasionally wonder why we refuse to treat you like a star, it is because you are our daughter first and a film star later, and we want you to remember that you have to eventually return to the real world... You are in an industry where theres always going to be big money, but I hope thats not your only motivation for work. I believe that it is important to try and be the best in whatever you do regardless of money, writes Padukone, who earned his first significant prize money after winning the All England Championships.
In a world of email, Facebook, BBM and Whatsapp, writing letters to our children, parents or friends sounds old-fashioned but author Sudha Menon says that was precisely the reason for such a book as these technologies do not necessarily ensure bonding between a parent and chid. Writing a letter is still a legitimate way of communicating, says Menon.
Pradeep Bhargava, director with Cummins India, in his letters to his daughter Pooja, says it was also a way of putting his own life in context to his daughter, as well as an opportunity to rewind in the evening of ones life. Pooja says while she was not unaware about her fathers life, the letter did put things in perspective.
Zensar Technologies vice-chairman and CEO Ganesh Natarajan says he had never written an adult-to-adult letter to his daughter Karuna, who left home for the US at the age of 15 years for her education and has been there for the last 14 years. Karuna is a doctor at Harvard and is working on hematology and oncology. Their relationship has gone up a notch after the letter, says Natarajan.