Lunch with Zubin Irani
I will just have some soup.” United Technologies Corporation India President – Building and Industrial Systems Zubin Irani makes his intent clear right away. My heart skips a beat – a frugal meal means a short conversation and a boring piece for you to read. My task is to talk him out of this resolve. Irani is just back from a cruise with his in-laws where some food didn’t agree with him. (He counts himself lucky in the years when he has to do one cruise; in the unluckier ones, he has to do two – his parents, especially his mother, too, love cruises.)
The other reason Irani wants to eat light is that he is a fitness freak. Last year, he had taken part in the “Half Iron Man” contest at Phuket, which involved swimming two miles in the sea, cycling 70 km and running 12 km. Irani did it in 4 hours, 44 minutes and 44 seconds, and was among the 1,200 men, of the 4,000 that started, who managed to complete the triathlon. Irani wants to take part in the event this year as well, and is preparing hard for it. He cycles to Faridabad from the heart of New Delhi (that’s almost 70 km) three times a week, runs in the Lutyens’ Zone and swims wherever he can (the swimming pool in his kids’ school included). This year, he wants to raise the bar: two miles in the sea, 100 km on the bicycle and 21 km on his two legs.
That’s more than what an average samosa– and pakora-munching and lassi-drinking Indian does in a year. In between all the strenuous training, Irani puts in 10 to 12 hours of work every day, selling Otis elevators, Carrier air-conditioning plants and a whole range of fire-safety equipment. Surely, he can have more than just soup? Irani relents. We order seafood soup, steamed fish, fried chicken, vegetables and rice.