Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cyrus and I

Late one night last week I saw a small article on the BBC website stating that the Tata's had chosen the successor to Ratan Tata - a man widely credited for moving the mammoth Tata Group from being a big old-money industrial house in India to becoming a major world player.  The Tatas are now the UK's largest industrial employer and own well-known automobile brands like Jaguar and Rover, as well as Tetley Tea, and Corus steel.  That is in addition to their own home-grown but world-class Tata brands of Tata Consultancy Services as well and the whole stable of industries in India and other parts of the world.

Curious to see who the new person was I clicked and found myself looking at a familiar name.  Cyrus Mistry.

A few years ago I received an email from an Irish journalist asking if I had gone to school with Cyrus Pallonji Mistry - the son of Irish-Indian real estate tycoon Pallonji Mistry and what my memories of him were.  I was not familiar with the middle name and anyway did not want to answer the enterprising hack - so I sent a short email response declining comment.
Cyrus P. Mistry - director designate for Tata Sons

Seeing the name again was a real surprise.  I was staggered to think that my classmate from 5th standard at the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai is now about to take over one of the biggest business houses.

Till now I had thought that only one of my classmates was from an industrialist family - Tanya Godrej - the daughter of Adi and Parmeshwar Godrej.  And it was It was many years later that I even realised that - reading about her wedding in the papers and putting two and two together. 

I had actually thought of Cyrus a few times in the last few years.  Not because I knew anything about his family (which a cursory reading of the papers shows that they have been a major part of the Tata group for decades).  But because of his name - Cyrus.

In the Bible studies that I lead on many a Friday night we have spent some time recently looking at the history of the Jews in their Babylonian exile. One of the most remarkable emporers is the great Persio-Mede emperor Cyrus the Great. Fulfilling the seemingly improbable prophecy of Jeremiah - the Emporer Cyrus (whose empire stretched well into Hindusthan - making him king of our people too - or at least part of our ancestors) decreed that all the Jews who wished to could return to their ancient city of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there.

The Bible records this in the 2nd Chronicles chapter 35 and verses 22 and 23:
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 

This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:  “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the LORD their God be with them.’”

Reading the name of Cyrus in the Bible reminded my of my own Cyrus.  The Cyrus Mistry who studied together with me in 5th standard.  His name a direct tribute to the great Persion King who ruled most of the world at the time.  A king who was a Zorastrian by religion - a faith which continues to be followed by the Parsee community which my classmate Cyrus - and for that matter the Tatas and Godrejs are followers of.

The Cyrus of my mental image was a skinny boy with specks.  Of course most of us boys were small and skinny then.  Yours truly was the third smallest in the class for what seemed ages.  As 5th standard boys we spent much of our time wrestling and getting our white uniforms completely brown / grey with dirt - and splattered with the blue ink-trails of our beloved Chinese fountain pens.  Actually the only clear memory I have of Cyrus was talking to him one afternoon in a craft lesson which we had in a room that was not our normal classroom.  Other than that only faded photos remain on my part to link us together. 

When I told my daughter Asha about Cyrus she said I should call him up - or at least send him an email.  I can just imagine his inbox at the moment - he must be getting 500 or so emails a day!  Everyone who never noticed him will be hounding him now - seeking favours - trying to get onto his contact list.  I don't think I will add to that.  But just to for the record - I am really proud that Cyrus is taking up this amazing responsibility.  My earnest prayer to Jesus is that Cyrus will be diligent in leading the Tata group and that as the result of his leadership his employees will be blessed and our nation strengthened. 

Thinking back I am so grateful for the amazing schools I have had the privilege of attending.  Cathedral and John Connon from first to 1/2 of sixth standard.  The Deutsche Schule Bombay from 6th to 10th.  And then of course Woodstock School for my 11th and 12th.  Each school was not only a place where excellent teachers poured themselves into us - but also where I was blessed to study with some wonderful boys and girls.

The genius of wearing uniforms at Cathedral (despite the pain it caused my mother to clean the mess I brought back on me everyday) was that no matter what our house-hold income was - at school we all wore the same clothes so I never realised just how great our income disparities were.  Further - we were all taught the same way.  My classmates whose parents were captains in industry did not get more attention than those of us whose parents were not.  Our dear 5th standard teacher Mrs. Mahableshwarwallah - herself a Parsee like Cyrus and Tanya are - direct descendants of those Zorastrians who left Persia and received shelter in India generations ago - poured herself into us.

I wonder what her thoughts would be if she were to see where we have all ended up today.

Cyrus Mistry - fifth from the left of the second row standing.  Tanya Godrej - second from the right in the first row standing.  Your 'umble Chai Chat wallah - Andreas Eicher - first row seating extreme right.

1 comment:

  1. sir, in this picture u look just like Enoch....or in the other way Enoch looks very much like u..:):)