`A man of destiny'

FOR THE LOVE OF INDIA — The Life and Times of Jamsetji Tata: R. M. Lala; Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 395.

"A MAN of destiny", as J.R.D.Tata described him, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was born in a Parsi priestly family in 1839. Engaged earlier on in the cotton trade and studying the textile mills in England at that time, he set up Empress Mills at Nagpur in 1877. The concept of Swadeshi appealed to Jamsetji, with Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, being his close friends. He emerged as the statesman of India's textile industry. He wanted India's silk industry to be revived, which led to the establishment of the Tata Silk Farm at Bangalore.

The highest achievement of his life was to come through his contributions to education. Firstly, he created an endowment through which a distinguished line of J. N. Tata scholars emerged including the late Raja Ramanna, apart from an array of distinguished ICS officials. He then developed his idea for a university of advanced research in science, arts and industry, offering the British Government a third or more of his entire fortune. But for his idea to take shape there was resistance from no less than a person than Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India. Unperturbed, Jamsetji found a way to establish direct contact with Lord Hamilton, Secretary of State for India in London. Towards meeting the annual expenditure, Jamsetji's endowment was the cornerstone with � 8,000 and he appealed to the princes then, of whom, Mysore came forward. Actually, the Indian Institute of Science was born, after Jamsetji's demise through the continued efforts of his son Dorab Tata. Incidentally, J. N. Tata's will dated December 16, 1896 makes very interesting reading in which a large part is devoted to the foundation of the university.

Yet another great contribution of Jamsetji was the founding of the Tata Steel Company, in spite of tremendous obstacles on the way. This led to the apt description by Mahatma Gandhi who visited the Steel Plant in 1924, "Tatas represent the spirit of adventure." Yet another area where he made phenomenal contribution was in developing hydroelectric power, inspired by his visit to Niagara. A pioneer in town planning schemes, he was largely responsible for modernising Mumbai city.

He thought of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel at a time when there were no decent hotels for the rising number of the British middle class business people visiting the city for trade. Even in these hotels Indians were not allowed. The story cited says that Jamsetji took a foreign guest to one of these hotels and at the door he was told that the guest could come in but, "Sorry Indians are not allowed." At that point he was supposed to have stated that he would build a hotel that would put them all in the shade. Incidentally, he himself was very fond of good food in which he indulged to the actual detriment of his health.

On the whole, the book certainly succeeds in impressing upon the reader the tremendous farsightedness of J.N.Tata. Time has proved that his marvellous vision has not been in vain whether in founding the Indian Institute of Science, a century ago, which has now developed into a world class institution or Tata Steel which is one of the world's quality steel producers at the lowest cost. The life history of such a great son of India is certainly worth reading.


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