Life full of 'Josh'

AT THE turn of the new century, the Coromandel coast does not invite spice traders or company sahibs striking deals with Nawabs and Rajas. The new expat is the representative of a multinational company. He is tall, handsome, has style and is full of life. In short, he has a lot of "Josh". He is Phil Spender, the Managing Director of Ford.

With his wife Sue, he has made Chennai his home in the last 18 months. Being here has been "a life-enriching experience from a whole range of perspectives" for them. The hardest part was to cope with "Satellite" life says Sue. Their two children are studying in Melbourne. They have worked it all out now, and can see their kids regularly. In fact, they have just been here, seen the Taj Mahal and enjoyed their vacation. India being an emerging market, has provided enough excitement for Spender who has been places with Ford for 25 years. " We are writing out the rules and creating history right now " he says.

On the one hand, experiencing the spirituality and richness of the country has fascinated the Spenders. On the other, many things have caused concern too. The challenges here, trying to improve things, have also made them keen environmentalists. " I can clean my teeth now with a small glass of water. I never did that before. But now I think I will do it for the rest of my life, quite frankly " says Phil Spender with disarming candour. Sue Spender is seen quite often in a saree. She loves it and admires the Indian woman looking gorgeous in it. She finds time for craft and charity work and with everyday being a summer's day, enjoys her golf. She has been a great support to Phil Spender in his work - even choosing the colours for the IKON !

Phil Spender's hectic pace of work does not give them much time to socialise. But they have seen a bit of South India, and been to Rajasthan and Nepal to see the Himalayas. Apparently Sir. Edmund Hillary had visited their high school, spoken of the Everest and the Sherpas way back in the '60s.

I see an Enfield bike parked majestically in their drawing room. " I haven't gone too far on it " says Phil Spender. " It's an object to be loved and admired , so we polish it up and start it up everyday ". He has become a member of the Madras Motor Sports club. Racing rally cars used to be a passion before he joined Ford as an engineer. An early acquaintance was Jackie Stewart who visited Australia with other racing stars several times. The old acquaintance was renewed by Phil Spender when the Grand Prix came to Australia. It is through that friendship that Ford has been able to get young Karthikeyan into the Stewart Jaguar racing circuit this year in England. Sue and Phil Spender are off to England to attend three races and check that all the arrangements are okay.

The Spenders try to take in some of the culture of Chennai, and have visited some of the art galleries. They have not yet been to the movies. The Shah Rukh starrer "Josh" is one that they would probably go to see when it comes out. Sue Spender is going to learn a few recipes from her cook. In the meantime, Phil Spender's favourite Indian dish is " Rogan Josh! It is a little hot, but we love it", he laughs..