Farokh Engineer – still firmly on the front foot

Farokh Engineerfarrokh engineer

One may quit cricket, but apparently it cannot be the other way round. This was was well illustrated by Farokh Engineer, a trained pilot, who chose cricket as a career, to represent India in 46 Test matches spanning over 15 years during 1961-1975.

Now 78, Engineer is all grace and poise as he was on the grounds during his cricketing career, representing India and the English county team Lancashire.

During his visit to Hyderabad, as a brand ambassador for Zaiwalla & Co, London-based solicitors, he shared some interesting anecdotes and how an invaluable piece of advice from his ‘Godfather’ JRD Tata, former Chairman of the Tata Group, changed his life forever.

He says, “I took to cricket like most kids in Dadar-Mumbai those days and began loving the game playing for the school team, college/universities, representing the Ranji team, our country and then the English county team Lancashire. Even though I was a trained pilot having been inspired by an ex-Air Chief cousin, I took to cricket with all passion.”

“While working with the Tata Group entities, when I was in a dilemma whether to take up an assignment as a professional cricketer for Lancashire, JRD Tata, who was my mentor, suggested that I take up the assignment, pursue further studies, earn money, get better degree, and come back to India to work at a higher level in one of the Tata entities. This piece of advice changed my life,” he said.

Saving Shashi Kapoor

Referring to his schooling days at Don Bosco, where actor Shashi Kapoor was a classmate, he said that a French teacher would throw dusters at students whom he spotted chatting during class sessions.

“In one such incident, when he flung the duster, it would have landed on Shashi Kapoor’s face, but for the catch I took. If not for that catch, Shashi Kapoor would have played the role of a villain with a scar instead of a hero,” says Engineer with a smile.

Taking a dig at the great English cricketer and commentator Geoff Boycott for his “dour and boring cricket,” he said, “I was exactly opposite slam bang always forcing the pace. Thankfully, all my life, I played for Lancashire and India, he played for Yorkshire and England, many times playing against each other.”

Mentioning about his contest with the likes of West Indian fast bowlers Charlie Griffith and Roy Gilchrist without helmet, he said it was fascinating as this was special.

Narrating an incident, where the match between India and Sri Lanka was getting over in four days, he said most of the team-mates were upset as they would lose the fifth day’s packet of ?50. Those were the days when we used to get ?50 a day, as against probably a few lakhs or a million bucks in the case of some cricketers today.

Parsis have interesting names, he said and for his father who was Doctor and worked with the Tata group for over five decades, it was a tough time, as patients and people would call him Doctor Engineer.


A Zoroastrian Lady on Mount Everest ?

Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad's photo.


Dr. Fereshte Bakhtiari, a Zoroastrian lady from Kerman, Iran, has conquered Everest. 
Dr. Bakhtiari who is part of Asha, a Zoroastrian Group, has a PhD in Chemical Engineering. 
She is an experienced mountain climber who has climbed many mountains in Iran including the Mt. Damavand. 
She was part of a team of 6 men and 2 women which scaled the Mount Everest. 
We are proud of her achievements.

The steady inspiring rise of Zia Mody

The steady inspiring rise of Zia Mody

Last updated on: April 06, 2015 18:34 IST

We bring you this excerpt from Shaili Chopra’s book, When I was 25.

You’ve seen them at the peak of their careers — P ChidambaramDimple Kapadia,Rajdeep SardesaiShashi Tharoor and many more.

But what were they like when they were 25? What was India like when they were that young? And what can young India learn from their lives?

Shaili Chopra‘s book, When I was 25, traces the youth of these (among many other) successful personalities as they open up about the challenges they faced and the choices they made to reach where they are today.

In the following extract, Chopra narrates the steady and inspiring rise of Zia Mody:

Dealmaker or dealbreaker, Zia Mody is a quintessential workaholic, and thrives on long, busy days.

She is among India’s most prolific lawyers and a mascot for career women who pursue their passions despite familial responsibilities.

She believes nothing should come in the way of your ability to work and you should give it your best shot.

She is driven, honest, never ducks from hard work, and has to her credit some of the country’s top deals.

And this success has almost nothing to do with the house she was born in.

Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee’s daughter may have chosen law inspired by her dad’s experience but Zia Mody is a woman after her own dreams and passions.

Continue reading

A judge who knows God

Your faith in the judiciary may notch up if we tell you that justice Rohintan Fali Nariman, one of Supreme Court’s judges is an ardent man of God once his judicial duties have been meted. And if justice Markandey Katju (referring from his blog post from the year 2014) is to be believed, justice Nariman is an ordained Parsi priest who is adept at performing marriages, Navjote ceremonies and has access to enter the sanctum sanctorum like any other priest of his calibre.


Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman is considered a scholar in Zoroastrianism by his peers

The blog, http://www.justicekatju.blogspot.in, further states that apart from being an eminent lawyer, justice Nariman trained himself to be become a priest at a tender age of 12. Quoting from the website, when Rohinton was 12 years old, he was sent to a Parsi school where he lived in isolation for 28 days in an agiary. He prayed five times a day and memorised 72 chapters of the Zendavesta – a holy book of the Parsis’ and recited it in the presence of his family members for three hours at a stretch before he was given the validation to be called a true-blue priest.

The public relationship office from the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, Godrej Dotivala, confirms this. He reminisces, “I have known Fali Sam Nariman (justice Nariman’s father) since I was three years old. He had fled his country (Rangoon, Burma) due to the Japanese invasion before he came to India to settle in Mumbai.” Dotivala is one of justice Nariman’s family friend and fondly remembers him as being a bright student with an impeccable memory and tremendous faith in Ahura Mazda, the Parsi god.

During the punchayet’s felicitation programme in January 2015, it was releaved that justice Nariman was also a lecturer on the subject of Zoroastrianism and held Gatha classes, 17 hymns composed by Zarathusthra.

Ace lawyer Darius Khambata, in his speech read out at the felicitation said, “It was Rohintan who introduced me to Zoroastrianism and certain aspects of historical writings on Christianity as well. He is known to put his heart and soul into his work which is one of the characteristics of a true Zaotar.”

Justice Nariman, an alumni of the popular South Mumbai school, Cathedral and John Connon also has a lighter side. His close friend and senior advocate Jimmy Pochkhanawalla shared that justice Nariman doted his friends. And that aspect of his life is evident when they take off on their annual vacation to Mahableshwar each year during winters.

When we contacted the Bandra agiary for a comment, they were unavailable.


The Making of a Field Marshal


It was on New Year’s Day of 1973 that the nation got to know that the architect of India ’s greatest military victory in centuries had been elevated to the rank of field marshal. This came as a surprise to most of us. Only a couple of months earlier, the then defence minister had told the press at Chennai that India would not have a field marshal or a five-star general. I remember a friend of mine telling me at that time that if Pakistan had won the 1971 war, Yahya would have been made a field marshal the very next day. I disagreed with him, saying he would not have been made field marshal, but would have made himself one, like Ayub Khan.
My thoughts went back to 1946, when for the first time three Indian officers were posted to the Military Operations Directorate at Delhi , hitherto the exclusive preserve of British officers and British clerks. They were Lt. Col. Sam Hormusji Faramji Manekshaw, Major Yahya Khan and I in the rank of captain. Who could then have predicted the path the careers of Manekshaw and Yahya would take? Inscrutable are the ways of providence.
I had the privilege of serving under Sam Manekshaw in all the ranks that he held from Lt. Col. to Army Chief. He had a tremendous capacity for work and was a brilliant professional, contributing immensely in every appointment. He combined all this with a great sense of humour and ready wit. As a senior staff officer at Army Headquarters in 1971, I saw how meticulously he planned for the coming war during the nine months preparatory time he had managed to obtain. The resounding victory in that war was the crowning achievement of the foremost military leader of our Army.
Field Marshal never retires. He would therefore be entitled to full pay for the rest of his life.
I was functioning as adjutant-general, the Army’s chief of personnel, in January 1973 and had to work out his entitlements in his new rank. I went to his office to congratulate him and found him examining the badges of rank in cloth that had been prepared by Bastani Brothers, the tailor in South Block. Apparently Sam had been informed of his promotion a day or two earlier. To maintain secrecy, his personal staff told the tailor that a Nepalese field marshal was to come and his badge of rank had to be stitched. Sam told me that an investiture was to be held two days later at Rashtrapati Bhavan and I had to work out all the details with the government. I replied that it would be both an honour and a pleasure.
However, I told him that the cloth badges of rank would be of no use, he would have to be in his ceremonial uniform for which he would need metal badges of rank. Moreover, the badges of rank made by the tailor were not correct. The Ashoka Lion at the top of the wreath had to be in miniature and touching the top of the two loops in one badge of rank. He asked me how I knew this. I replied that when Field Marshal Auchinleck used to visit the Operations Room in 1946, I used to closely watch his badges of rank and ribbons. He said he saw more of Auchinleck than I but was not sure what I said was correct. He wanted something authentic. I went back to my office and tried to find some written authority, but nothing was available. I rang up our military attaché in London . He told me that the War Office was closed for the Christmas holidays and he would not be able to send me anything for a week. I then thought of looking up the Encyclopedia Britannica.
I was happy to find a colour picture of a field marshal’s badges of rank. That satisfied Sam. I said I would get them fabricated at the Army workshop in Delhi Cantonment. Working round the clock, our electrical engineers made a good job of it and completed the task within 24 hours.
We worked out the privileges Sam was now entitled to. A field marshal never retires. He would therefore be entitled to full pay for the rest of his life. He had to have a ceremonial baton which would now be part of his uniform. Besides, he would have to be given a small secretariat and personal staff. We also had to work out the procedure to be followed for the investiture at Rashtrapati Bhavan. A meeting was held, attended by home ministry officials, the additional secretary, ministry of defence, and I, with the home secretary in the chair. Having been an old hand in Army Headquarters, I was fully aware of the hostility of the civilian bureaucracy towards the Army.
I saw that in full force at this meeting. I found the bureaucrats opposing all our suggestions. They wanted the Cabinet Secretary, who was higher in protocol status to Service Chiefs, to have a higher place than Sam in the seating plan. I maintained that a field marshal should rank with Bharat Ratna awardees. The latter enjoyed much higher protocol status than the Cabinet Secretary.
Frederick the Great had introduced the rank of field marshal as part of reforms in the Prussian Army in the 18th century. A conquering general was from then not allowed to keep any part of war booty. This was now to go to the state. Generals who had done exceptionally well in war would be promoted field marshal, which would entitle them to full salary for the rest of their lives. That is how the tradition of a field marshal never retiring originated. The field marshal was also to be given a ceremonial baton, somewhat like a monarch’s orb. His protocol status was to be next only to the monarch. Thus originated the tradition of regimental flags dipping in salute only for a monarch or head of state and field marshal. They do not do so even for Prime Ministers. Gradually, all armies in Europe introduced this rank.
The Duke of Wellington captured a French marshal’s baton in Spain and sent it to his sovereign. He was made the first field marshal of the British Army.
Thirty-two years later, I learnt from press reports that the government had at long last taken a decision on the salary of a field marshal, consequent to the visit of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to Staff College Wellington when he met Sam, then terminally ill in hospital.
A fortnight later, when Sam was demitting office, we had a ceremonial farewell parade for him on Army Day. For the first time we brought regimental flags on parade for the Army Day. I had kept it as a surprise for Sam. When he arrived for the parade, I mentioned this to him. He asked me in his usual manner, “Tell me, sweety, how do I respond to the salute?” He took me by surprise. I did not know how a field marshal returns a salute. I later learnt that while doing so a British field marshal holds the baton in his left hand at an angle of 45 degrees to the middle of their left thigh. However, I had seen movies in which Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering used to raise his baton in his right hand. I promptly replied, “Sir, by raising the baton in your right hand.” Sam accepted this. We started a new tradition of our own.
Thirty-two years later, I learnt from press reports that the government had at long last taken a decision on the salary of a field marshal, consequent to the visit of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to Staff College Wellington when he met Sam, then terminally ill in hospital. The defence secretary flew to Wellington to personally hand over a cheque of Rs 1.3 crores to Sam as his arrears of pay for over 30 years. A couple of weeks later, I went to the Staff College for a lecture. I met Sam in hospital and congratulated him for the arrears he had received. He replied, “Sweety, a babu from Delhi came and gave me a cheque. I have sent it to the bank. I do not know if it will be honoured.” That was the last time I met Sam. Soon after, Sam died. It was a national shame that we did not give him an appropriate funeral.
As per our protocol, a field marshal ranks with the Service Chiefs and below the Cabinet Secretary. Bureaucracy had its way. The government was represented by a mere minister of state at the funeral. The funeral should have taken place in Delhi with the President, the Prime Minister and the high commissioner of Bangladesh, or a high dignitary from that country, attending. When the Duke of Wellington died, several monarchs, Presidents and Prime Ministers attended his funeral and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

By Lt Gen SK Sinha


Issue Net Edition| Date : 18 Apr , 2014

March 14, 2015, 4:19 pm
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A man who made a lot of wealth, and a lot more goodwill – The quotable Jamsetji Tata

These quotations by and on Jamsetji Tata, Founder of the Tata group, draw a vivid portrait of a visionary with a deep commitment to his country and its people

There is one kind of charity common enough among us… It is that patchwork philanthropy which clothes the ragged, feeds the poor, and heals the sick. I am far from decrying the noble spirit which seeks to help a poor or suffering fellow being… [However] what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country.

Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches.
Jamsetji Tata in a letter to son Dorab about his vision for the township that would eventually become Jamshedpur.

Click Here for more gems
‘Wealth came to him in full measure, but he remained to the last what he was in nature, a simple modest gentleman, seeking neither title nor place, and loving with love that knew no bounds the land that gave him birth.’

– Sir Lawrence Jenkins (chief justice of Bombay High Court, 1905)

Those who know about him would wholeheartedly agree that these words precisely summarize what Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata embodied as a person. A great industrialist and philanthropist, he left his mark on India’s industrial history as well as on the soil of Nagpur by establishing the Empress Mills on January 1, 1877, the same day Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. He also went on to establish the first girls school of the city in the form of JN Tata Parsi Girls’ High School.Tuesday marks the 175th birth anniversary of JN Tata.

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Dr Cyrus S Poonawalla – Entrepreneur of the year

Dr Cyrus S Poonawalla named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year at an event in Mumbai

Dr Cyrus S Poonawalla (Chairman and Managing Director, Serum Institute Of India), who pioneered the development of affordable life-saving vaccines and is counted among the largest vaccine manufacturers worldwide, was named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 recently.He is seen here with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu


The Disruptive Entrepreneur

The former film and TV tycoon on the mammoth marketing plan for his forthcoming book, and investing in digital media

Ronnie Screwvala | The disruptive entrepreneur

There was a time in the early 1990s when Ronnie Screwvala was lining up outside Doordarshan Bhawan on Copernicus Marg in New Delhi to get his hands on an application form to produce shows for the newly launched DD2. The state-owned Doordarshan, popularly known as DD, was the only channel on air in those days, and DD2 was a spin-off intended to expand the suite of programming offered to viewers.

Keeping him company in the line were Prannoy Roy, Raghav Bahl, Aroon Purie and the Adhikari brothers, among others.

“They were opening the door at 6am in the morning, so all of us were lined up the previous night. Nobody knew the other was going to be there…those were the mad early days,” recalls Screwvala, 58, who met us in his sprawling fifth-floor apartment at Breach Candy house, in one of south Mumbai’s most exclusive residential neighbourhoods.

The setting for our chat couldn’t have been further removed from the scene that he described. We are sitting in a room with bay windows that offer a near 180-degree view of the Arabian Sea. It’s 10.30 on a clear, breezy January morning in Mumbai, and Sprite, the family’s golden retriever, has settled in for a nap (after sniffing the visitors) next to us. Outside, a few parakeets are flying around, squawking loudly enough to distract us now and then from our conversation about Screwvala’s forthcoming book on entrepreneurship, his new digital ventures, his work with the family’s not-for-profit foundation Swades, and a brief digression into his past at UTV Software Communications Ltd.


One of Screwvala’s earliest attempts at ‘entrepreneurship’ was in the mid-1970s, when his friends and he organized a rock concert at the Sri Shanmukhananda Hall in Mumbai. They managed to fill roughly half the 3,000 seats. Illustration by Jayachandran/Mint

He knows exactly where he wants to start. For a man who could qualify as a serial entrepreneur, the subject and title of his book, Dream With Your Eyes Open, seem apt. He disputes the description of being a serial entrepreneur, pointing out that he had a near 20-year run in media.

Screwvala’s first business was a cable venture in 1981, which initially offered a video channel for a few hours each day to homes in some localities in south Mumbai like Cuffe Parade, and later expanded across the city. But he got a whiff of media much earlier, when he dabbled in theatre during his college days; this gave him a sense of self-confidence, he says.

In 1990, Screwvala started UTV with Rs.37,500. “When I set up UTV, my ambitions were quite low. We thought, ‘let’s go make a TV show’. Then slowly we moved into ad films because the directors had done ad films and we wanted to fill the time between shows. One thing led to another. But I would say that the reasons for starting it were mildly unambitious.”

Over the next two decades, UTV expanded into businesses that ranged from broadcasting and film production to gaming and interactive media. A turning point came in February 2012 when The Walt Disney Co. decided to buy a controlling interest in the company. The two had been partners since 2006. Screwvala gave up his promoters’ chair but stayed on as managing director; in October 2013, he announced that he would step down as managing director as well.

“Did I, at that stage, have a clear idea about what I wanted to do in my second inning? No. But I was supremely confident that there was enough to be done outside of media and entertainment,” he says.

Screwvala’s second inning looks like it will span many sectors with one common theme—the healthy intent of disrupting existing models and creating new benchmarks.

“Second inning, for most people, get a little too dramatic. For me it was a natural chronology. When one was looking at getting out of media, I took a fair amount of time to figure out what I want to do for the next 20 years…the one thing I am very passionate about is entrepreneurship in this country,” he says. He goes on to explain that he wanted to evangelize entrepreneurship and therefore settled on a book, and possibly a TV show down the road.

Online bookings for the book will begin in March; it will hit the stands in April. It will not be just another non-fiction book that sells on average 30,000-40,000 copies, says Screwvala. Bringing a bit of the hoopla that surrounds the broadcasting and film production world he left behind to the publishing world, Screwvala plans to market the book with a Rs.5 crore budget—unprecedented in the publishing market.

The marketing plan will include, for the first time, a TV commercial along with ads in the print media. Road shows, engaging entrepreneurs and graduates across 16 cities, have been planned. Fifty short videos on entrepreneurship will be pushed out via digital media.

Meanwhile, the TV show, if and when it takes off, will be based on the format of Shark Tank—a popular global reality television show where aspiring entrepreneurs try and win over the shark (investors) to back their business ideas. Screwvala has bought the rights for the show in India but says he will launch it on a Hindi general entertainment channel rather than beaming it to the niche audiences that business channels attract.

“My visual for that was this father and son sitting in Chandigarh and watching this on a Sunday morning on a general entertainment channel…. The idea was that the father who has, up till now, been advising his son to get a job, suddenly looks at this and says, ‘there are three ideas that just came on TV and my son’s idea is as good as those’. ‘If they just got funded—Rs.25 lakh or Rs.50 lakh—maybe I am holding my son back for the wrong reasons’. So for that penny to drop, is my objective.”

At a time when Raghav Bahl has launched Quintillion Media Pvt. Ltd, a digital media company, Screwvala has announced that he will set up a digital media venture in partnership with executives who used to work with the Network18 Group (founded by Bahl and taken over by Reliance Industries Ltd last year). But Screwvala says the digital media is too nascent for anyone to compete with anyone else at this early stage.

“The more (people) that invest in this, the better,” he says.

This will mark his return to the media in some ways.

“No,” he says, joking that the news media would certainly want to headline it as his “return”. He is more fascinated with digital as a platform. Even an online education venture floated by him in January is more about the digital medium, and is premised on the expectation that the next 10 years will be exciting for the medium.

“Content, learning, utilities, tomorrow it can be securities for all I know. In education and in health, it could have a phenomenal impact,” he says. How big will this venture be? “It would be quite a shame if one doesn’t think 10x of what the last inning was. It’s as simple as that.”

The plan is to do something disruptive at a significant scale in the sectors that they are entering and working in, explains Screwvala, repeating a word that has been peppered throughout the conversation in one context or another.

We’re halfway through our conversation, the coffee has turned cold. The parakeets are getting louder, and impossible to ignore. There are 12 of them hanging around, Screwvala tells us, taking a break from speaking about his ventures for the first time. I use the opportunity to sneak a peek at the distractingly beautiful sea view.

The theme of disruption extends to Swades. Incidentally, Swades was the name of the one of the first few movies that Screwvala co-produced in 2004. His wife, Zarina Mehta, runs the venture, with Screwvala devoting part of his time to it. But instead of picking one area such as health or education to work in, Swades is taking a 360-degree view on providing social services to the villages it works in. It currently works across terrain that covers 3,100km in Maharashtra, with half a million people in 3,000 villages across six blocks. They hope to expand their reach to a million people soon.

Even though the venture is a not-for-profit, there are precise targets in place. They intend to exit each of the villages they work in within six years, having ensured that the villagers are self-sufficient by the end of that period. The idea is to increase the income levels of the people they work with by 10 times, he says, because the process must be seen through from end to end if it has to make a real difference.

“We decided to do all of it. That was one thing we considered disruptive and very ambitious, and what most people thought was mad. But we’re used to that,” he says, recalling that people had the same reaction when he decided to get into movie production. He has more on his plate: his venture capital firm Unilazer, and his involvement in the Pro Kabbadi League and the Indian Super League for football. As we wrap up our chat, I remark on the number of times his favourite word, “disruptive”, has come up in conversation. He has been accused of that before, he says, with a sheepish smile. On a serious note, he concludes, “It’s a need…. For an emerging market that hopes to be the third largest economy in the world, you cannot do it without being innovative and disruptive. There is no choice in the matter.”

Dr. Dhun Noria Receives Order of Ontario

image003It is with great pleasure and pride for the ZSO to share news of the recently well-deserved recognition and award that our very own Dr.  Dhun Noria received from the Government of Ontario. She received the ORDER OF ONTARIO earlier this month. This is yet another significant milestone in a  long list of her achievements and accomplishments. Dr. Noria has been a strong supporter of the ZSO and we thank her for her years of yeoman service for the benefit of all Zoroastrians of Ontario.

We wish Dr. Noria continued success in all her future endeavours.

TSH’s Dr. Dhun Noria Receives Order of Ontario



The men of steel with a softer side


Tata, the Indian company that owns Tetley Tea and Jaguar Land Rover, prides itself on its ethics – 66% of the business is owned by charities. Its unique character was shaped by the passions of its founder Jamsetji Tata and his successors.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Indian businessman Jamsetji Tata walked into one of Mumbai’s most expensive hotels – but, so the story goes, he was told to leave because of the colour of his skin.

Legend has it that he was so incensed he decided to build his own hotel – a better one that would welcome Indian guests.


Click here to read on


Courtesy : Porus Homi Havewala