Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Satya Nadella - A defense that is not one

One more treatise on the Karma guy’s woes - couldn't resist the temptation to jump on to the bandwagon, my bad!
One cannot discount for the fact that as a male he could potentially have some level of bias and foggy view of gender-equality which may have influenced his initial response which in hindsight does sound a tad too casual for the kind of platform it was – I’m not still going to pursue that angle here since enough debate is already happening out there.
My focus here is on some obvious racial backlash against Nadella using this incident as a ruse/ excuse & what's said here is relevant only to the section of netizens whose foremost view of Nadella seems to be that of an Asian-Indian & not as a successful, self-made American corporate/tech executive.
This current racial slur is evident in the following refrains;
  • Calling into question his competence (Indian) to handle the top-job of an American corporation vis-à-vis other more 'deserving' (European?) contenders
  • His ethno-cultural, rustic! (India, Hindu?) roots perpetuating his patriarchal, rigid approach to gender
  • His (in)ability to articulate his position well during the initial comment & in his subsequent explanation (non-native English speaker?)
Ironically, many pursuing this angle seem more cock-sure about the meaning of 'Karma' than Nadella himself who, whether or not a practicing Hindu, will still understand better the context & consequence of Karma at a subconscious level given the all pervasiveness of it in an Indian context – this is not to say he’s a saint who knows his pearls of wisdom, but to underscore that misinterpretation of karma is a distinct possibility if the meaning has been merely googled up.
Given his upbringing in an multicultural urban set-up, in a socially sensitized & progressive familial environment; my own understanding of the shared cultural ethos & social metric he'd have been exposed to & going by the fact that he made it to top on his own steam in a foreign country, I'd believe Satya Nadella understands the implications of discrimination at work of different types, is perhaps more gender sensitive than many mono-cultural tech-executives in the US of A and as articulate in English, if not more, than most native speakers of that language. Ponder this, if the Indian, Hindu angle were absent from his profile, he'd surely have been interpreted far more reasonably by the currently raving minority out there & here.
By all means, rip him apart on what he said or didn't for weeks & months to come, but only while treating him an ‘American male tech-CEO’ & NOT as a ‘Indian-Hindu male & a compromise CEO of an American corporation’
Like any, this too shall pass. But let this not leave a bitter aftertaste of racial prejudice for the hard-working aliens in the land of opportunity.
POST THOUGHT: 16 October 2014
In Telugu, which is Satya Nadella's native tongue (also mine), the term 'Karma/ Kharma' is typically used in the context of acknowledging consequences of one’s action. The most commonly used phrase is Naa kharma, anubhavinchaka tappadu, which can be translated as 'I have to bear the consequences that come my way' – It should be noted here that the individual doesn't clarify if the consequences are of his/her actions or someone else’s. Another common usage is Evari karma ki vaarey baadhyulu which translates as 'an individual owns complete responsibility of dealing with consequences of his karma'.
Effectively, in Telugu, the term Karma is used as a philosophical refrain/ reproach (to self or others) that conveys the sense that "an individual has to own up & deal with the consequences of his karma, be it good or bad". So after all, If not his initial botched-up response, Nadella's subsequent patch-up message to his employees does seem to have some influence of his linguistic roots :-)
Image Courtesy: Seattle Times