Xerxes Desai, founder of Titan


Xerxes Desai, founder of Titan, dies

Desai played a key role in introducing India to its first quartz watch in the late 80s when he set up Titan.

Xerxes Desai spent four decades working across the Tata Group. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Xerxes Desai spent four decades working across the Tata Group. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: Xerxes Sapur Desai, the man who founded Titan Co. Ltd and made it an internationally renowned Indian watch brand, is no more.

The 79-year-old died in Bengaluru on Monday because of acute gastroenteritis.

“He was not only our founder, but also our greatest advocate. Over the years, his guidance and dogged pursuit of perfection helped make Titan a household name and a market leader,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

“He was big thinking, iconoclastic, meticulous, insightful, humanitarian with a enhanced sense of style and taste, articulate and quality conscious. A passionate rationalist who believed that ‘Yesterday’s truths are today’s heresies,’” said Bhaskar Bhat, Managing director, Titan.

A graduate of Bombay and Oxford Universities, Desai played a key role in introducing India to its first quartz watch in the late 80s when he set up Titan Co. Ltd (part of Tata Sons), after enduring years of resistance from state-owned and now defunct HMT Watches.

But that is not his only contribution to the world, those who knew him pointed out.

Desai was an “amazing, eclectic entrepreneur,” and “a passionate fighter for Indian cities,” said Titan board member and urban development expert Ireena Vittal, who praised his “inspirational design sensibility that helped lay down the foundation for Titan and earlier Taj.”

Like many others, Vittal called him a fine gentleman with lovely stories and great dogs. Desai, who loved western classical and jazz, often brought his two dogs to work.

“I will so miss him,” Vittal said in an e-mail.

Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy shared the sentiment.

“He was a wonderful person and the city will miss him,” said Murthy, who met him on many occasions over the years. “He was a perfectionist, a disciplined man and always on time.” Murthy fondly remembered the time when Infosys distributed custom-designed watches to 25,000 employees when it celebrated its “Billion Dollar Day.”

Desai’s journey in building one of the largest indigenous brands in the country was not an easy one. While the idea of Titan came about in 1979, it took him seven long years to finally set up a factory in Hosur, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, in 1986 with support from the Tamil Nadu government.

“It was a time,” Desai recalled of days in the 60s in an earlier interview with Mint, “when one had to write an application to HMT to get a watch you see. One couldn’t buy it in the open market. You then got a letter of approval from the department and then over a couple of weeks you had to go to a store to collect it.”

Before Titan, Desai spent four decades working across the Tata Group—TAS, Tata Press, Taj Hotels—fighting odds and making a case for businesses to flourish in a closed economy.

Varun Sood and Sharan Poovanna contributed to this story.

Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza (High Priest of Iranshah Atashbehram at Udvada)


Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza is fantastic combination of religious fervour and technical excellence. Born at Udvada in November 1944, Dr. Peshotan Mirza acquired his priestly Education and Training at:

Seth Sorabji Manekji Damanwala Madressa, Udvada.
The M.F. Cama Athornan Institute, Andheri.
Ordained the Zoroastrian Priestly orders of Navar, Maratab and Samel; performed higher liturgical services and ‘Boi’ ceremony of Holy Iranshah

Atash-Behram, Udvada. As for his academic and theological education; he passed SSC examination and joined St. Xavier’s college Mumbai and obtained B.Sc (Honors), M.Sc and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from the University of Bombay.

He studied Avesta-Pahlavi and Iranian History at Sir J.J Zarthosti Madressa and Mulla Firoze Madressa, Mumbai alongside University studies in Science.

He was appointed to the exalted position of Dastur (High-Priest) of Iranshah Atash Behram; Samast Anjuman, Udvada on 13th May 2004.

Apart from being a priest of the highest calibre, few in the community know that he was a lecturer in Chemistry at St. Xavier’s College; Mumbai Development and Documentation Scientist at International Draxon Industries, Tehran, Iran.

Retired from the post of General Manager – Technical Services in a Chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

Former member -Science and Technology Sub-committee, Bombay Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Member – Research Committee – The K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai

Member of Managing Committee – M.F. Cama Athornan Institute and its ex-student Association.

Trustee – Athornan Mandal and Udvada Anjuman.

Besides discharging religious duties as a high priest of Iranshah Atash Behram Udvada Anjuman, he is also presently working as a technical advisor in a chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

He has attended and participated in religious and technical seminars and conferences. He was an invitee to the world conference on spiritual regeneration and human values at Bangalore in January 2003, and addressed the gathering there on Spirituality and science. He also attended a conference of world religions dialogue and symphony at Mahuva, Bhavnagar in 2009.

A great orator, he has lectured on Zoroastrian religious and historical subjects at various places of Parsi settlements in India, Singapore, Dubai, Karachi and Iran.

Dr. Peshotan Mirza is a shining jewel of our community. A man of not only great virtue, sincerity and spirituality, but also of technical excellence. May his tribe increase with the divine benedictory of Pak Iranshah Atashbehram, our prophet Zarathushta and Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda. Atha Jamyat Yathra Afrinami!

Message to the Parsi/ Irani Zarthostis
Religion is the Divine Law of life revealed by the Prophet. It is the divinely inspired knowledge about the creator, spiritual beings and about the life in this world and life here after. It teaches us our duties, responsibilities, commitments towards our creator, ourselves and others.

Religion plays an important part in our daily life. If properly interpreted, understood and practiced, religion guides our destiny and moulds our character. It inculcates spirituality in the worldly life and leads us on the path of piety, virtue and thus inspires us to do good deeds of benevolence. In distress, it gives solace and comfort; in difficulty and danger it affords courage and fortitude.

There can be no worldly life without difficulties and problems. In their long and chequered history, our fore-fathers had to face innumerable difficulties, problems and hardships. Yet, they remained deeply rooted in their ethnicity and religious teachings, customs and traditions. By sheer dint of their faith in Religion, Prophet Zarathustra and Almighty Lord Ahura Mazda, they trounced the difficulties, maintained their religious identity and flourished practically in all walks of life in spite of their small number. They spent their life with hard work, high standard of integrity, spirit of enterprise and service, noble qualities of benevolence and philanthropy.

Zoroastrian Religion enjoins daily prayers and rituals along with moral, ethical virtues of life with purity of mind body and soul. This is the Zoroastrian Path of life in accordance with Humata Hukhta Huvarshta – Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.

With these noble qualities they maintained religious identity and at the same time became friends to all India and contributed handsomely in development of our country.

In the present day it becomes our religious duty to emulate our forefathers. It becomes our religious duty that Parsis work hard and flourish in their chosen fields; marry within the fold at the right age and expand their family to the right size. The Parsis must maintain their religious identity and at the same time treat the members of the other communities with respect, justice, harmony and friendship just as our fore fathers did. This is the religious duty and responsibility of every member of our community.

May Lord Ahura Mazda shower his divine blessings upon, eyery member of the Parsi/Irani Zarthosti community in particular and humanity at large!

Courtesy: Fereydoun Rasti

Tributes to Dasturji Peshotan Mirza


Vada Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Mirza passed away today after a tenacious battle with cancer. The entire Parsi community mourns the loss of this splendid and erudite Zoroastrian – one of our finest Vada Dasturjis.

Till the end he served the community with integrity, scholarship and commitment.

May his glorious soul find Garothman Behest – and may his family find solace in their hour of grief.

 

Courtesy :‎Yezdi Maneck Bhathena‎

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Traditional Zarthustis have lost a great personality [on 26-06-2016]. An ideal HEAD Priest. A very humble and low profile soul. My sincere prayers for his Ruvan to proceed towards Garothman Behest in Sarosh Yazad ni Panah.

Courtesy : ‎Godrej Sachinwalla

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A pic that speaks a thousand words…cud not help sharing.

May the divine soul of Dasturji Peshotan Mirza attain the highest heaven – Garothman Behesht.

Courtesy : ‎Jasmine Sahukar


Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdyar Mirza is fantastic combination of religious fervour and technical excellence. Born at Udvada in November 1944, Dr. Peshotan Mirza acquired his priestly Education and Training at:

Seth Sorabji Manekji Damanwala Madressa, Udvada.

The M.F. Cama Athornan Institute, Andheri.

Ordained the Zoroastrian Priestly orders of Navar, Maratab and Samel; performed higher liturgical services and ‘Boi’ ceremony of Holy Iranshah Atash-Behram, Udvada. As for his academic and theological education; he passed SSC examination and joined St. Xavier’s college Mumbai and obtained B.Sc (Honors), M.Sc and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from the University of Bombay.

He studied Avesta-Pahlavi and Iranian History at Sir J.J Zarthosti Madressa and Mulla Firoze Madressa, Mumbai alongside University studies in Science.

He was appointed to the exalted position of Dastur (High-Priest) of Iranshah Atash Behram; Samast Anjuman, Udvada on 13th May 2004.

Apart from being a priest of the highest calibre, few in the community know that he was a lecturer in Chemistry at St. Xavier’s College; Mumbai Development and Documentation Scientist at International Draxon Industries, Tehran, Iran.

Retired from the post of General Manager – Technical Services in a Chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

Former member -Science and Technology Sub-committee, Bombay Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Member – Research Committee – The K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai

Member of Managing Committee – M.F. Cama Athornan Institute and its ex-student Association.

Trustee – Athornan Mandal and Udvada Anjuman.

Besides discharging religious duties as a high priest of Iranshah Atash Behram Udvada Anjuman, he is also presently working as a technical advisor in a chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

He has attended and participated in religious and technical seminars and conferences. He was an invitee to the world conference on spiritual regeneration and human values at Bangalore in January 2003, and addressed the gathering there on Spirituality and science. He also attended a conference of world religions dialogue and symphony at Mahuva, Bhavnagar in 2009.

A great orator, he has lectured on Zoroastrian religious and historical subjects at various places of Parsi settlements in India, Singapore, Dubai, Karachi and Iran.

Dr. Peshotan Mirza is a shining jewel of our community. A man of not only great virtue, sincerity and spirituality, but also of technical excellence. May his tribe increase with the divine benedictory of Pak Iranshah Atashbehram, our prophet Zarathushta and Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda. Atha Jamyat Yathra Afrinami! He studied Avesta-Pahlavi and Iranian History at Sir J.J Zarthosti Madressa and Mulla Firoze Madressa, Mumbai alongside University studies in Science.

He was appointed to the exalted position of Dastur (High-Priest) of Iranshah Atash Behram; Samast Anjuman, Udvada on 13th May 2004.

Apart from being a priest of the highest calibre, few in the community know that he was a lecturer in Chemistry at St. Xavier’s College; Mumbai Development and Documentation Scientist at International Draxon Industries, Tehran, Iran.

Retired from the post of General Manager – Technical Services in a Chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

Former member -Science and Technology Sub-committee, Bombay Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Member – Research Committee – The K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai

Member of Managing Committee – M.F. Cama Athornan Institute and its ex-student Association.

Trustee – Athornan Mandal and Udvada Anjuman.

Besides discharging religious duties as a high priest of Iranshah Atash Behram Udvada Anjuman, he is also presently working as a technical advisor in a chemical manufacturing company in Mumbai.

He has attended and participated in religious and technical seminars and conferences. He was an invitee to the world conference on spiritual regeneration and human values at Bangalore in January 2003, and addressed the gathering there on Spirituality and science. He also attended a conference of world religions dialogue and symphony at Mahuva, Bhavnagar in 2009.

A great orator, he has lectured on Zoroastrian religious and historical subjects at various places of Parsi settlements in India, Singapore, Dubai, Karachi and Iran.

Dr. Peshotan Mirza is a shining jewel of our community. A man of not only great virtue, sincerity and spirituality, but also of technical excellence. May his tribe increase with the divine benedictory of Pak Iranshah Atashbehram, our prophet Zarathushta and Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda. Atha Jamyat Yathra Afrinami!

 

Courtesy : Khushru Variava

June Artwork of the Month: ‘Dadabhai Naoroji’


Artwork of the Month: On 30 June 1917, Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Asian Member of Parliament died.

Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Asian Member of Parliament elected to the House of Commons.  He was born in Mumbai in 1825, and pursued a career as an intellectual and campaigner for Indian causes.  In 1855 he was the first Indian to be given an academic appointment, being appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy for Elphinstone College.  In later years, after relocating to the UK, he was made professor of Gujarati at University College London.

During Naoroji’s lifetime, the Indian population made up four fifths of the British Empire, but its 250 million people were unrepresented in the House of Commons.  There was a general consensus that representation would have to be secured, if reforms to the governance of India were to be made a reality.  Naoroji had helped to establish the East India Association in 1867 – an organisation intended to combat prevailing views of the Asians as inferior.  The organisation eventually merged with Indian National Association, becoming the Indian National Congress – later the party of Gandhi, and still a prominent party in Indian politics.

Known by admirers as the “Grand Old Man of India,” Naoroji stood several times for election to the House of Commons, facing considerable racism each time.  Following his defeat in the 1886 general election, Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, stated that Britain was not ready to elect a black man – from which remark Punch took inspiration, and published a cartoon depicting Naoroji as Othello, and Salisbury as the “Doge of Westminster.”

Naoroji became a well-known public figure, with the support of both Florence Nightingale and suffrage campaigners.  He was eventually elected to the constituency of Central Finsbury with a majority of three votes.  As an MP he campaigned for Indian independence, but also supported votes for women, pensions for the elderly, Irish Home Rule and the abolition of the House of Lords.   He served as an MP from 1892-1895, but continued to campaign to the end of his life, being elected president of the Indian National Congress for a third time in 1906.  He died in Mumbai on 30 June 1917.

Background

The history of non-white Members of Parliament probably begins with David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who was of mixed European and Indian descent. In 1841 he was elected as a Radical-Liberal to the seat of Sudbury, in Suffolk. In 1842, however, Parliament overturned the result citing ‘gross, systematic, and extensive bribery’ during the campaign, and he and the other Member for the Sudbury division, Frederick Villiers, lost their seats. It is possible that John Stewart, elected as MP for Lymington in 1832, was also from a mixed ethnic background.

The Artwork

The portrait was painted by V. R Rao and is likely a copy in oils from a photograph of Naoroji taken in 1906. It was presented to the House of Commons in 1939 by the Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial Fund.

Image: ‘Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, oil on canvas by V.R. Rao (WOA 1539)

https://www.parliament.uk/about/art-in-parliament/news/2016/june/june-artwork-of-the-month-dadabhai-naoroji/

June Artwork of the Month: ‘Dadabhai Naoroji’

Nari K Rustomji – Idealistic bureaucrat


Idealistic bureaucrat

May 16 was Meghalaya’s first chief secretary Nari K Rustomji’s birth anniversary. Glenn C Kharkongor recalls his contribution to the Northeast

 NARI K Rustomji studied classical Latin and Greek, was secretary of the Musical Society and played the piano and violin at Cambridge University. Such a background would be considered unusual for a bureaucrat today. Perhaps it was these sensibilities that made Rustomji one of the most endearing political administrators of his era and his affection for the tribals of Northeast India is legendary.

This week is the 94th birth anniversary of the first chief secretary of Meghalaya, who died a decade ago.

The Northeast has all but forgotten this remarkable bureaucrat, whose grasp of geopolitical matters and understanding of tribal cultures made him one of the most sympathetic and understanding administrators of the Northeast in the transition to and in the early post-Independence era. He and Verrier Elwin were often described as romantics. They were close friends and Rustomji in fact, edited a volume of Elwin’s selected writings. Their advice was relied upon greatly by Nehru and resulted in a policy for the Northeast that has been described as Nehruvian humanistic paternalism. Sadly, that benevolent policy has lapsed and has been replaced with a chaotic and befuddled mindset in Delhi, which results in cultural aggression and headlong underdevelopment, characterized by insensitivity and greed.

Rustomji was influenced greatly by Plato and Socrates, and intended to become a school teacher, but was persuaded by his teachers to apply for the ICS. It was during World War II, and at the interview he was asked about his contribution to the war effort. At the time he was a member of the Royal Observer Corps, keeping a tally of enemy planes that flew overhead. When he mentioned that he was a plane spotter, the examiners inquired how many planes he had spotted the previous week. His reply was a solemn “I’m sorry sir, that’s top secret”. There was an amused murmur of approval among the greybeards and he felt that he had clinched the appointment.

At the end of his ICS probationary training in Dehra Dun, Nari K Rustomji was assigned to Assam, which he accepted whole-heartedly.  One of the main reasons for this enthusiasm was Assam’s proximity to Sikkim and Bhutan. He had been introduced to these countries, India’s neighbours in the Northeast, by his friendship with the crown prince of Sikkim, Thondup Namgyal and his cousin, the prince of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji who were probationers along with him in 1942. These lifelong friendships were cemented during Rustomji’s posting as Dewan of Sikkim from 1954-59 and when he was appointed as Adviser to the Government of Bhutan in 1963.

Rustomji spent most of his career in the Northeast, spanning from his first appointment as district publicity organiser in Sylhet during the Second World War, a kind of propaganda post to develop and deliver positive messages to the public in favour of the Allies, to being the first chief secretary of Meghalaya in 1972. In between he served in various administrative posts in Maulvibazar, Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh. Perhaps the most noteworthy position that he had was adviser to the Governor of Assam on tribal affairs, during which time he exerted considerable influence on the formulation of policies for the hill areas.

He was associated with the implementation of the early seven-year plans in Sikkim and Bhutan.  Significant in these development efforts were a visionary intent to protect the environment and biodiversity of the region and to protect the region from unwanted kinds of development. He was also careful to ensure that cultural traditions and sensitivities were protected in implementing the Plans.

Rustomji was deeply drawn to the tribals of the region. In his book Enchanted Frontiers, Rustomji says, “The people of the hills have had for me a special pull. I feel utterly and completely at home with my (tribal) hosts. I am at heart, very much a tribal myself. I share much of the bewilderment and loss of identity of the tribal of today”. He learned the local language at every posting and even wore indigenous costumes to work. Much of his scholarly writing are on the anthropology and sociology of the tribes and these articles have appeared in journals such as Himalayan Environment and Culture brought out by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

As Dewan of the Chogyal of Sikkim and adviser to the Government of Bhutan, he immersed himself in the cultural milieu of those countries, learning the Sikkimese and Bhutanese languages and wearing the local costumes. He would wear the Sikkimese gown, the ko, even during his trips to Delhi. This led the foreign secretary to comment wryly that while the Dewan might wear Sikkimese dress in Gangtok, he failed to see the point of his wearing the gown in Delhi.

During the governorship of Sri Prakasa, he played a pivotal role in obtaining the accession to India of the maharajas of Manipur, Cooch Behar andManipur. Though varying amounts of duress were exerted in these efforts, Rustomji came out each time with the respect of the maharaja.  On each occasion his services were requested as the first Chief Commissioner of the accessed kingdom.

He had a part in the negotiations with the Naga and Mizotribals. He tried to convince the Government that “right principles, rather than force of arms” was the right policy. He spoke out against the tendency of officers to pontificate patronizingly about “uplifting our tribal brethren”.  Himself a Zoroastrian, he tried to convince the tribals that they were free to practice the religion of their choice, by arranging special broadcasts of Christian services on Sundays in English and in the various Naga languages. He describes his poignant interaction with a Naga prisoner, discussing letters that the prisoner had written about a cat who was his sole companion in jail.  He discussed with General Shrinagesh about a sympathetic approach to the hearts and minds of the tribal people. Sadly, they were not many in the political and military establishment that shared his statesmanlike approach.

In 1951, when he was stationed in Shillong as advisor to the Governor of Assam, Rustomji got married to Hilla Master, daughter of Jal Ardeshir Master, chief conservator of forests, Madras Presidency. They had met in Bombay the previous year; he was 31 and she was 23. Their daughter Tusna was born at Welsh Mission Hospital in 1952. Sadly, Hilla died of complications soon after. He married again in 1963 to Avi Dalal, someone the family had long known.

An unfortunate outcome of Partition was the closure of trade between the Khasi Hills and the contiguous areas of East Pakistan. Perishable oranges and betel nut from the border plantations now had no outlet market and Rustomji approved the request of the local traders for an airstrip in Shella, so that the produce could be flown to Calcutta. Regrettably, this never happened.

As chief secretary in the new state of Meghalaya, he determined to set up an efficient administration, leading by example. Each morning he walked from his residence, Lumpyngad, followed by a clerk, who dutifully took down notes on the way to the Secretariat. He once visited a district headquarters unannounced and found the deputy commissioner absent from his office. Rustomji sent for the absentee officer, who on hearing that the chief secretary was around immediately declared himself sick. Rustomji then sat in the DC’s chair and spent the day disposing of pending files.

If you Google his name and browse the internet, only snippets about Rustomji appear, brief lines in a scholarly article or a blog. Most of what is available are accounts in the five books he has written. In these idealistic, analytical and balanced accounts, he carefully blends the history, culture and politics of this complex region as a background for governance and administration.

Surely the man deserves weightier evidence of his contribution to the Northeast.  Indeed such an analysis would provide clues to achieving better solutions to the continuing myriad problems of the Northeast, many of which can be traced to the post-Independence era in which misguided and heavy-handed policies were framed.  The politicians and mandarins of today seem to continue in the same vein. They should study Rustomji’s books.

Read more at http://www.theshillongtimes.com/2013/05/26/idealistic-bureaucrat/#UQFFXWW1H9J1xuur.99

Courtest : Tusna Park

KF RUSTAMJI: INDIA’S ICONIC POLICE OFFICER


His centennial birth year is an opportunity to celebrate the man who set up the Border Security Force and laid the ground for the first Public Interest Litigation case

Though he was born a Parsi on May 22, 1916, Khusro Faramurz Rustamji, one of modern India’s most celebrated police officers and the first Director General of the Border Security Force, was cremated, according to his wishes, as per Hindu rituals in March 2003. A passionate nationalist, Rustamji also wrote extensively on minority rights of Hindus and Muslims, and rued the fact that his journalistic writings were not acknowledged. However, now, in the 100th year of his birth, Rustamji’s writings are finally being acknowledged as religiously as his remarkable leadership in the police and BSF.

In 1971, in an acknowledgment of his leadership capabilities, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote a letter at the end of the India-Pakistan war, in which Rustamji had so brilliantly deployed the might of the BSF, a force he nurtured: “As the first line of our defence, the Border Security Force had to bear the immediate brunt of the enemy onslaught. The manner in which they faced the fire and support they gave to the army played a crucial role in our ultimate success.” Defense Secretary KB Lall, in his letter to the Home Secretary also praised the role of the BSF: “A special word of thanks to the Director General of the Border Security Force and to the men and officers under his command, is overdue. It is their initial initiatives, their boldness courage and, if I may say so, imagination, which provided eventually an opportunity to the Defense Services to do their part.”

In the midst of Pakistani fury when Bangladesh was preparing for the swearing-in ceremony, selection of the place was critical. Rustamji was clear he wanted this historic ceremony to be witnessed by the maximum number of people. The spot also had to provide for the possibility of strafing by a Pakistani plane which did this ruthlessly all over East Pakistan. Accordingly, a triangular piece of land jutting into India with a beautiful mango grove was selected in a village called Baidyanathtala which later became Mujib Nagar. It was a unique way for the new Government of a new nation to be sworn in, in the midst of a global Press.

Rustamji nicely summarised this. He said, “The first process of Government of a newly born nation was to commence not in a man-made, gaily decorated and illuminated building of carpeted floor and chandelier decorated ceilings but in a place which had for its canopy the sky, and for its decoration the trees. Decades or centuries hence when the citizens of Bangladesh would look back on the birth of their country and the tragic circumstances attending it, they could legitimately be proud, among other things, of the fact that their first Government sworn to democracy, secularism, and socialism came in an area where nature had bestowed her gifts in profusion and in the wake of ceremonies which were not only immaculate but also daring in their conception and courageous in their execution.”

After his retirement in 1974, Rustamji was much sought after for his expertise. As Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, he structured the BSF, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force in the Central Police Organisation. He also initiated the formation of the Indian Coast Guard and was responsible for setting up the National Police Commission. He later became its member from 1978 to 1983.

Not many know about this but, in 1978, Rustamji visited the jails in Bihar and wrote about the conditions of the undertrials languishing for long periods. Two of his articles in The Indian Express formed the basis for the first Public Interest Litigation case, Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar, which led to the release of 40,000 undertrials all over India.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/kf-rustamji-indias-iconic-police-officer.html

Palkhivala and The Constitution of India


Posted in LEGAL LUMINARIES by NNLRJ INDIA on February 21, 2010

FROM THE LEGAL ARCHIVES

by Soli J. Sorabjee    Cite as : (2003) 4 SCC (Jour) 33

Nani Palkhivala

Nani Palkhivala

On 16-1-1920 was born a child in Bombay whom his parents christened Nanabhoy. It was not an earth-shattering event at that time. In later years, he was known as Nani Palkhivala—a household name, not only amongst lawyers, but throughout the length and breadth of our country. What was the constitution of this man who became an authority and a guardian of our Constitution in later years? What was his background?

Physically he was not impressive. A young, slim boy measuring about 5 feet 7 inches in height and not having many kilos to carry. Nani Palkhivala was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He hailed from a humble Parsi middle-class working family. His ancestors were in the profession of making and fixing “palkhis,” namely, palanquins, to be fitted to horse carriages of those times. Hence the surname Palkhivala, which like many Parsi surnames, is associated with a particular calling or profession.

Nani Palkhivala’s schooling was in Master’s Tutorial High School in Bombay. He was a brilliant student and did extremely well despite his initial handicap of stammering which he overcame by sheer willpower. After matriculation he joined St. Xavier’s College, Bombay and completed his MA in English Literature. In younger days, he did take to music and played the violin reasonably well. But the spell of Apollo was short-lived. Music was not one of his passions in later life.

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Yesteryear models reunite with ‘Godmother’ of fashion choreography


India’s top models from the 70s and 80s reunite with Godmother of fashion choreography Jeannie Naoroji, who tells them what she always did, smile and pull the chin up

On stage are: Interior designer and noted aesthete Kavita Singh, film actor Deepak Parasher, dance director Salome Roy Kapur, jewellery designer Marianne Rao, cancer survivor Esther Daswani, actor and artist Kiran Juneja, fashion choreographer Lubna Adams, actors Pheroza Modi and Nandini Sen, business professional Nandini Kamdar (nee Naqi Jehan), luxury brand marketing professional Adrianne ‘Anna’ Bredemeyer and businessman Asgar Jehan. Off the stage at Tata Theatre, NCPA, actor Zeenat Aman quietly absorbs instructions. Almost all of them are beauty contest winners, models, actors and activists — the nation’s first harvest of ambassadors of beauty and elegance.

Jeannie flanked by Lubna Adams (left) and Dolly Thakore (rear centre)
Jeannie flanked by Lubna Adams (left) and Dolly Thakore (rear centre)

What Jeannie Naoroji sees: young models who need to be repeatedly told to, “Zip the lips, girls. Focus.” or “Models shouldn’t talk.” or “Did I tell you to speak?”

Jeannie Naoroji, 90, choreographs Kiran Juneja at a rehearsal for the awards night fashion show. Pics/Suresh KK
Jeannie Naoroji, 90, choreographs Kiran Juneja at a rehearsal for the awards night fashion show. Pics/Suresh KK

The scene is the rehearsal for Fashion Rewind, a show that finally took place last Wednesday. Jeannie was awarded the Laadli Lifetime Achievement Award for Fashion Design and Choreography. “The awards celebrate women in the field of media, arts and advertising. Past recipients have included Zohra Sehgal and Shaukat Azmi. This year, it’s Jeannie,” says Dolly Thakore, national co-ordinator for the 7th National Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity. “We choose women who are leaders in their field and over 90 years of age,” she adds.

Zeenat Aman (in green) worked with Jeannie even before she won the Miss Asia Pacific title in 1970. Behind her to her right is Salome Roy Kapur
Zeenat Aman (in green) worked with Jeannie even before she won the Miss Asia Pacific title in 1970. Behind her to her right is Salome Roy Kapur

Jeannie, at 90 years and eight months, is a veteran choreographer of over 4000 shows stretching from the mid 1950s to early 1990s. Those were shows before there were fashion designers, or even an Indian fashion industry. “It was more like entertainment with a dash of business thrown in,” says Anna. “There would be a room or an exhibition where a cloth mill would showcase the latest wares to buyers. We would have a show with clothes made from that same fabric. It was more a tamasha and we did our own hair and make-up.”

Former model-turned-actor Deepak Parasher strikes a pose
Former model-turned-actor Deepak Parasher strikes a pose

Jeannie became the director of these shows because of her interest and experience in dance movement. Born in Karachi in undivided India, she studied ballet up to the week before her wedding in 1951. In 1954, she was involved with raising funds through shows for the National Association for the Blind and the Maharashtra State Council for Women. “We had to do a fashion show for the institution. Someone saw me dancing to music and asked me to choreograph fashion shows,” she says. “And that’s how it began.”

Fashion aboard ships
The assembled cast has been reminiscing about those shows, which were mini adventures. Paced as entertainment, they would supplement a fabric trade show. The mills used the event as live expositions of their new products. Calico and Hakoba Mills held travelling shows. There was an adventure on a cruise liner that sailed up and down the river Rhine in Germany where shows were held twice a day. Then came a memorable trip to Moscow for a textile exhibition which was supposed to last four days, but stretched to 25 days. “We almost lost Sam there; his heart belonged to Russia,” Jeannie says.

She’s talking about veteran stage director Sam Kerawalla. He’s here too, handling the lights and production for the awards like he has for 40 years. Handling music production in place of Sam is old friend and collaborator, Sarosh Bhabha, is his son Kaizad. “Can you believe it, he passed away just in February,” says Jeannie. “We worked together for more than 40 years.” Kaizad began accompanying his father when he was 10 and was present on that Rhine trip. He grew up in the company of all the women present on stage today, which explains why they maternally pat his cheeks and ask about his recent elective surgery. In the background, Sam and Salomé break into a jive. Marianne ‘Dalda’ Rao (nee D’Souza), Pheroza Modi (nee Cooper) and Esther Daswani mock glide, pace like seductive tigresses and goof about. Asgar Jehan, an old dance partner of Salome’s, takes former beauty queen and fashion writer Meher Castellino’s place as they practice entries. He walks with feminine grace as the girls hoot. Esther calls out to Jeannie, “Don’t grow old before your time, Jeannie!”

You haven’t changed
Jeannie theatrically counts to 10 sitting in the front seat of the audience. “One must count to 10 before retaliating to a rude person. You girls have become too clever for me,” she yells. “Jokers. I am not amused at all.”

That’s Jeannie, each model says. Feisty, professional and a yeller. “I’m too old! I can’t be scolded like this!” laughs Kiran. “She thinks we are still 18,” says Esther. But nobody says that to her; they do as they are told.

Each of them has walked for Jeannie though the 60s, 70s, 80s and the 90s. Salome began as long back as 1968 and worked with her till 1977. Zeenat worked with her before she won Miss Asia and after and during the time. “I learnt to walk the ramp from her, which helped me win an international contest and put me on the path to movies,” says Zeenat. She, like all the others, has taken out time from a busy schedule to rehearse for the show. “I think if anyone has contributed to your growth, it’s nice to acknowledge it,” she says, presumably speaking for everyone.

With her knowledge of dance movement, Jeannie would choreograph the shows resembling mini ballets. There would be three or four sections, showing Indian wear, casual Indian wear, casual western wear and perhaps some avant-garde designs. “We would open with an aarti or a namaskar and then move about occupying the stage, striking poses. It was not just walking up and down [like it is now],” Jeannie says. This format is being replicated for the tribute show that her former colleagues have put together. Designers Wendell Rodricks, Neeta Lulla and Rudra Kapur of Burlington have offered to design the costumes.

To all of them, Jeannie is unchanged — she still dresses in a monotone and a flourish of a trendy accessory — a scarf then, an ikat jacket now with a co-ordinated headscarf. Thick framed glasses match the black rock entwined in a silver ring in one hand, which matches a gunmetal band on a finger in the other. Her earrings are black buttons. Her decisions are made in a split-second. “No, not this music; try the other,” she barks. When asked whether she doesn’t like it, she says, “It’s not a matter of liking; it should match the clothes.” To the models she instructs, “Glide girls. Raise your chins. Remember you are showing off the clothes. Anna, please put the bag down, be a model. Make a sensational pose. Smile! Smile out of your hair, out of your body.”

“This is what we wanted,” says Salome. “To bring the old Jeannie back.”

Out of the theatre, the girls recall her as a mother hen, always wanting to know if your personal life was okay, whether they were comfortable in a strange land and eating well. She forked Lubna’s career into a new direction with a backhanded compliment. “This was in 1991 or ’92,” Lubna recalls. “About six or seven days before a show, Jeannie’s daughter called me and said, ‘My mother is ill and can’t do the show. She has said you will do it.’ I didn’t know anything about choreography and said so. Her daughter replied, ‘If mother thinks you can do it, you can do it.’ So I directed and walked the show. After that, I grew in that direction.”

The crew had grand plans of celebrating Jeannie’s life with giant picture backdrops, flowery speeches and tokens of
affection. Jeannie doesn’t want to know about all that. “It’ll get a bit boring if you keep talking about Jeannie Naoroji,” she tells Dolly, who is working on the script to fill the time between costume changes. “Why don’t you talk about the models, instead.”

To journalists writing about her she repeatedly says, “Don’t overdo it.”

To the world at large, she says, “I am in my element when I say something rude.”