We take inspiration from their philanthropy and their simplicity, but Narayana and Sudha Murthy’s loves story is pretty inspirational too.
Narayana Murthy was shy and an introvert. Sudha Murthy (née Kulkarni) was a bold, ambitious computer scientist. They both met in Pune through their mutual friend, Prasanna (now the global head at Wipro).
The first date
At first coy, Murthy made the first move when he invited Sudha along with other friends to dinner. Since Sudha was the only girl in her group, she refused at first. But Murthy persisted and so she agreed to meet him at 7.30 PM the following day at Green Fields hotel on the Main Road, Pune.
When Murthy proposed to Sudha
The two soon became friends. They exchanged conversations about books and Murthy relayed his experiences abroad. The conversations were never romantic, but one day at dinner, it all changed.
Murthy 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 middleclass family. I can never become rich. You are beautiful, bright, intelligent and you can get anyone you want. But will you marry me?
Sudha did not reply in haste and asked Murthy for some time. She told her parents about the proposal and naturally there were inhibitions.
When Murthy met Sudha’s parents, and things hit south
Murthy’s first meeting with Sudha’s parents is something they can laugh about now. But the crucial meeting had a shaky start.
My parents agreed to meet Murthy in Pune on a particular day at 10 a. m sharp. Murthy 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.
Murthy showed up at Sudha’s place in a bright red shirt two hours late. Sudha’s father was unimpressed. But things were going to go further south with what happened next.
My father asked him what he wanted to become in life. Murthy 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.
Even though Murthy scored no points in the father’s book. It was enough for Sudha who, by this time, realized that she loved him.
I wanted to marry Murthy because he is an honest man.
Sudha was now caught between two most important men in her life: her father who insisted that Murthy get a steady job and Murthy who never did things under pressure from someone.
The beautiful three years of courtship
The relationship remained in a limbo for three years. But that is when their love blossomed. They went out to the movies and dinners.
Sudha jokes about how one of the richest people in India, was once always broke.
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, will return it to you later. For three years, I maintained a book of Murthy’s debts to me. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after our wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4,000.
Murthy had by then quit his job as research assistant to become an entrepreneur and start his software company. It was the late 70s and computers in India were making headway in businesses.
When Narayana Murthy and Sudha Kulkarni exchanged vows
At the end of 1977, Murthy took up the position as General Manager at Patni computers in Bombay (now Mumbai) and wanted to marry Sudha before going to the US on a training project.
Sudha’s father was now glad of Murthy’s steady income and gave his consent to their marriage.
The two tied the knot on February 10, 1978 in Murthy’s house in Bangalore. Their wedding was a simple affair with just the family of the two. The whole wedding cost 800 wherein both pitched in equal amount.
Big dreams, bigger sacrifices
In 1981, Murthy realized his big dream and it was the beginning for Infosys, one of the biggest names in software consulting. Murthy’s passion to create good quality software was strong but it was held back due to lack of capital.
This is where Sudha came to the rescue.
We were living a comfortable life in Bombay with a regular pay check and I didn’t want to rock the boat. But Murthy was passionate about creating good quality software. I decided to support him. Typical of Murthy, 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.
As Murthy worked hard with co-founders (Nandan Nilekani among them) to realize his dreams, Sudha became the rock that kept their relationship and Murthy’s ambitions steady. She quit Telco where she worked and moved to Pune to help Murthy. Later on, in 1983, first Murthy and later Sudha moved to Bangalore.
For some time, the two worked shoulder to shoulder to bring Infosys up. However, Murthy felt that the company could not grow at the cost of ignoring family (of four by this time).
Murthy made it very clear that it would either be me or him working at Infosys. Never the two of
And so, Sudha took a backseat and took the role of a homemaker. And Murthy has never forgotten her sacrifice.
Even today, Murthy says, Sudha, I stepped on your career to make mine. You are responsible for my success.
The world is testimony to their success, both as strong individuals but as a great team that puts the needs of the humankind before their own selves. But their love story is something that needs to be talked about more: this beautiful relationship based on solid foundation of principles and resolve, while staying true to yourself and your partner.
Even as they grow old together, the romance has not faded away. While their shared love for things make into sweet gestures. Their differences never get in the way of living their own lives.
Murthy and I are two opposites that complement each other. Murthy is sensitive and romantic in his own way. He always gifts me books addressed ‘From Me to You. Or ‘To the person I most admire, etc. We both love books. I am an extrovert and he is an introvert. I love watching movies and listening to classical music. Murthy loves listening to English classical music. I go out for movies with my students and secretary every other week.
Excerpts taken from Sudha Murthy’s book.