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Throwback: When Infosys founder Narayana Murthy was jailed for 3 days without food in Bulgaria

Author: ET Now Digital
Publication: Timesnownews.com
Date: August 09, 2020
URL:   https://www.timesnownews.com/business-economy/companies/article/throwback-when-infosys-founder-narayana-murthy-was-jailed-for-3-days-without-food-in-bulgaria/634102

Murthy was once jailed for 72 hours without food in Bulgaria. He was thrown into an 8x8 ft room and his passport was confiscated. The room had just a toilet in a corner; the floor was hard and cold.

Infosys founder Narayana Murthy is one of the pioneers in the Indian tech industry. He launched Infosys in 1981 together with six other individuals on a meagre Rs 10,000 which he borrowed from his wife Sudha Murthy. With no family business background, Murthy is a man from a middle-class family who made it big.

Despite being among the richest persons in India, Murthy leads a simple life and flies in economy class till date. Murthy’s life mantra is: “Leaders should lead by example in aspiration, optimism, hard work, monetary and other sacrifices”.

However, what a lot of people may not know is that Murthy was once jailed for 72 hours without food in Bulgaria. Earlier this year in January, while addressing the audience at a tech fest organized by IIT, Bombay, through a video link, Murthy shared how and why he was jailed in Bulgaria in 1974.

He recalled the bitter incident on a train in Nis, a border town between what is now Serbia and Bulgaria, which turned him into a "compassionate capitalist", leading him to create IT behemoth Infosys. In 1974, Murthy was travelling a train and he was engaged in a conversation with a girl, who could only understand French but it landed him in trouble which led to him being imprisoned.

In an interview with CN Traveller, Murthy has said, "A defining moment of my life came from an unexpected incident that happened in what was then Yugoslavia. In Niš, a kind man dropped me off at the railway station at 9:30 pm, from where I had to take a train to Sofia the next day. The restaurant at the station refused to give me any food, since I did not have any Yugoslavian currency. The next day was a Sunday, and all banks were closed. I spent the day lying down at the station to conserve my energy and boarded the Sofia Express at 8 pm."

Murthy recalled how he and a girl were talking about life in Bulgaria and a boy, who was accompanying the girl, got upset with them for some reason. So, he went and brought the police and the Bulgarian guards came and took Murthy's passport, luggage and dragged him on the platform.

"Sitting opposite me in the train were a boy and girl. I was well-versed in English, French and Russian, and tried to strike a conversation. While the boy did not respond, the girl knew French and was kind and friendly. While we were talking, the lad walked up to a few policemen standing nearby and said something. The next thing I knew was that my bag was being ransacked. I was dragged out of the train and thrown into an 8x8ft room and my passport was confiscated. The room had just a toilet in a corner; the floor was hard and cold. There was no bed, no chair or table," he added.

During the 72 hours in prison, Murthy was not even fed. "I thought they would open the door in the morning and get me some breakfast since I was the state guest, but nothing happened. I lost all hope of eating anything," he had said. Next morning, police took Murthy to the platform and pushed him into the guard's compartment of a departing freight train. By that time, he had not had anything to eat or drink for five straight days.

"After about 120 hours without water and food, the doors opened. I was dragged out and locked up in the guard’s compartment of a freight train. I had lost the ability to think," he added. Murthy recalled how guards has said to him, "Look, you are from a friendly country called India, so we are letting you go but we will give you your passport when you reach Istanbul."

Murthy has said several times how this incident made him turn from being 'a confused leftist to a determined compassionate capitalist" as it made him wonder that if a country treats friends like this, he would not want to be part of a communist country ever.

It was then that Murthy took a plunge into entrepreneurship with his first attempt being a company called Softronics in Pune, which he closed fairly quickly as he could not see any future prospects. The incident made him realize that a country can prosper only through the creation of jobs which can be done by entrepreneurs.


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