The co-founder of Infosys remembers idyllic IIT Bombay campus,daily train rides and favourite seafood joints
From being an accidental entrepreneur,Nandan Nilekani admits to have become an accidental author with Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century. Even though the thought existed in his mind and he used to write columns,the co-founder of Infosys feels he stumbled into writing the book.
The book really began on a wintry evening in Coonoor,in the Nilgiris in December 2006. Ramachandra Guha,Rohini (Nilekanis wife) and I were chatting over hot coffee when Rohini mentioned that I was thinking about writing a book, the writer says in his acknowledgement. Guha endorsed the idea and a series of events led to Penguin publishing the book. And as for being an accidental entrepreneur,Nilekani says in his introduction to his book,titled Notes from an Accidental Entrepreneur,that had he not walked into the office of the charismatic N R Narayana Murthy in the late 1978 in search of a job,he would probably have at best languished in a regular nine-to-fiver.
Ask him what to expect next from Nilekani,the writer,after a book of ideas. You expect more? I have done enough, he says,with mock-surprise. Then he adds,The book helped me clear my mind and understand my priorities.
Seated in a sea-facing room of the Trident,Nariman Point,Nilekani recalls writing down the entire structure of the book on a February 2007 evening at one go. He,however,started working on the book two months later. And in 18 months,the tome containing his perspective on Indias past,present and future was ready. He wants to know my opinion of the book and looks pleased when I tell him that it gave me a detailed picture of the countrys economic and social journey so far and the promise that the future holds.
Nilekani is in Mumbai for the launch of his book at The Trident on Monday evening. Earlier,his book launch in the city was cancelled following the terror attacks. The Padma Bhushan recipient shares a special bond with the metropolis where he studied Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay and started his career. IIT is a different world, says Nilekani,who studied there in 1973-78. He went on to live in the city for another three years,till 1981. I lived in Santa Cruz,and my home was close to the airport as well as the railway station. We could hear the sound every time a train hurtled down or a plane took off, he sweetly reminisces.
However,when he talks about taking a local train to Churchgate every day from Santa Cruz,I cant check my incredulous look. You took local trains? I ask. Come on,I did that for three years, says the entrepreneur,whose wealth is pegged at $ 1.3 billion. The fact that he has lived well in Mumbai soaking in the citys flavour becomes clear when he mentions names of his favourite restaurants in the city,along with his favourite dish there. Nilekani,however,says that he isnt much of a foodie now.
There are frequent references to Hindi films in his book. I have used films as metaphors. But Im not a film buff, he says. In spite of this,he has not been able to resist Rock On!!s magic. Next on his wish-list is the latest rags-to-riches saga,Slumdog Millionare.
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