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By Gauri Kumari
The 21st century’s Indian government major concern is to rejuvenate the India’s manufacturing base and the job it creates. To achieve this objective the present government has initiated the ‘Make In India’ program. A special focus has been given to this in the recent 2016-17 budget by our finance minister Arun Jaitley. The 19th century mill owner and industrialist Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata would have shared the same concern.
India’s first industrial manufacturing boom in the latter half of the 19th century gave birth to the father of Indian industry Jamsetji Nassurwanji Tata– The Founder of the Tata Group. Jamsetji’s vision now stands in front of us in the form of ‘The Tata Group of Companies’, India’s one the largest conglomerate contributing approximately 5% to India’s GDP alone.
Born as Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata to Nusserwanji and Jeevan Bai Tata on 3rd march 1839 in Navsari , a town in south Gujarat in a family of Parsi Zoroastrian priests. His father Nusserwanji was first to try his hand in business. Nussrewanji moved to Mumbai then known as Bombay and began his career by setting up an export trading firm. Jamsetji took admission at the Elphinestone College in Bombay at the age of 14. Being an exceptional student during college years , the principal decided to refund his fees once he completed the degree. He graduated from there as a green scholar in 1858 which is nowadays equivalent to a graduate degree. Since, child marriage was prominent in those days the future business tycoon got married at the tender age of 16 to the 10 year old Hirabai Daboo.
INITIAL STAGES OF HIS CAREER
He began as an opium trader. Soon after graduating from college, he joined his father’s trading firm. Unlike cast Hindus Parsis didn’t see traveling abroad a sin and this gave them considerable advantages. Jamsetji was put to work in China and his immediate task was to get opium and cogon to Hong Kong and Shanghai and to send back tea, camphor and gold. He stayed in Hong Kong for four years to accomplish his fathers dream of setting up a ‘Tata & company office’ there. Soon after achieving this milestone he moved to London, Europe to manage the cotton export business. There he received a crash course in world economics. To expand his father’s export business was not the sole motive behind his stay in London, he was also there to set up an Indian Bank. However, this venture of Tatas proved to be a total failure with the financial crisis hitting the Indian markets and the time being not favorable for the banking sector. A large sum of loss was faced by the Tata companies in India and all over Asia due to this collapse.
LATER PHASE OF JAMSETIJI’S CAREER
Jamsetji worked under his father’s shadow until the age of 29. In 1868 with the confidence , knowledge and experience that he gathered by working under his father for 9 years he started off with his own trading company with a capital of worth Rs 21,000. Howsoever, Tata was left with many worthless bills of credit due to which he had to liquidate his company. Jamsetji made his move into textile industry by buying a bankrupt oil mill in ‘Chinchpokli’ in 1869 converting it to a cotton mill and later renaming it as ‘Alexandra Mill’. However, he sold it two years later for profit to a local merchant. He established another cotton mill in 1874 in Nagpur naming it ‘Empress Mill’ which brought huge profits to him. He opened several other mills, three years later. To better his mills he made frequent trips to England to learn fine spinning technology. He also traveled to Egypt to master cultivation and grow higher quality cotton. These cotton mills brought him huge revenues, but were later sold by him for huge sum of money .
JAMSETJI’S VISION, INTERESTS AND LIFE
Jamsetji was a fan of the great exhibitions of the 19th century and was very obsessed with innovation and technology. His home had electric piano, a cinematograph and other most advanced technological toys of the 19th century. Moreover, his horse carriage was the first in India to have rubber tires. It was Jamsetji who introduced cold storage to Bombay, which can be seen in the form of cold storage room in Taj hotel’s old building. He actually tried it to ship business mangoes to Britain in cold storage.
His contemporaries relied on cheap labor and family to run business. Unlike them Jamsetji realized that modern industries needed professional managers and a satisfied and willing workforce. He was the first of his kind who tried to initialize the idea of human capital to work with technology. The first millionaire of India to introduce pension funds for his employees. He as well introduced other policies as well, which were never heard during those times, namely medical facilities for sick and women with children, accident compensations and on job trainings. This was not sentimental generosity he showed but the benefits provided by his company gave a reason to the skilled workers to stay.
His vision was to establish
- A steel and iron plant
- A learning institution
- A world class hotel
- A hydroelectric plant
To achieve these visions of his little could stop him. He traveled to America and got in touch with the American engineers to build his steel plant amidst the Indian jungle. He traveled to America and Europe to educate himself on the production of steel out of iron. Moreover, in order to realize his dream he wanted to grasp each and every piece of information about the technological advancement that had taken place all over the world over the years and use it for his benefit.
Unfortunately, he could realize only one of his dream till the time he was alive i.e. the establishment of world class hotel “The Taj Hotel”- the first to have electricity and a lift. The other three visions of his were turned to reality by his successors but he was not alive to see them , the foundations of which were laid by him.
In his final years, in a series of letters he wrote to his son Dorab, he expressed his idea of building a township around his iron and steel plant. He wrote “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”. This vision of township would eventually become Jamshedpur.
Jamsetji Tata passed away on 19 may 1904. After his death the Tata group was succeeded by his two sons Dorabjee Tata and Ratanji Tata.
On his demise, Dr Zakir Hussain ,the Former President of India said “while many others worked on loosening the chains of slavery and hastening the march towards the dawn of freedom, Tata dreamed of and worked for life as it was to be fashioned after liberation. Most of the others worked for freedom from a bad life of servitude; Tata worked for freedom for fashioning a better life for economic independence.”
His dreams were realized to reality. Tata’s iron and steel plant was set up in Sakchi village, Jharkhand. The village grew into a town and now a metropolis known as Jamshedpur. Moreover the Railway Station there was named Tatanagar. It is Asia’s first and India’s largest and world’s fifth largest steel company. The Tata power company is India’s largest private electricity generating company.
“Make the world England” was a popular slogan at the height of the British empire, but today the Tata’s have made the world more Indian.
The author is a student at University of Hyderabad. Twitter:@gauri89715
Facebook says it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform.
The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality.
Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet as they also contend with other matters such as antitrust crackdowns, the testimony of a whistleblowing former employee and concerns about how the company handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform.
In a separate blog post Sunday, the company defended its approach to combating hate speech, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that examined the company's inability to detect and remove hateful and excessively violent posts. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Metaverse, Augmented and Virtual Reality
As children, singing the rhyme Rock A Bye Baby was a fun thing to do. It was a statement of thrill and adventure to imagine a child climbing to the top of a tree and rocking to sleep. Especially in the Indian context, rocking a baby to sleep by attaching the cradle to the tree is quite a common thing. But the origin of this rhyme, or lullaby, seems rooted in other histories.
The most popular notion associated with this lullaby is of women leaving their babies tied to tree branches, rocking to sleep with the wind. It is believed that at the time this lullaby was written, it was inspired by a coloniser who saw the Native American women tie their children in birch bark cradles to the trees. The babies went to sleep rocked by the gusts of wind while the parents went about their tasks.
A Native American wooden cradle Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that it is an allegory to Betty Kenny, or Kenyon, as some versions record it. The Kenyons were a tree-dwelling family, and they used to live in a yew tree. They had carved the tree branches to fit their babies and allowed them to nestle there during the day. The part of the rhyme that talks about falling off the tree is a little scary in this context, but the speculation is that the tree branches were quite low.
The final interpretation of the lullaby has political allusions. King James II of England, was the last Catholic king. He had no heir and reportedly used another baby to impersonate his own. But he was found out and exiled in the Glorious Revolution that took place after he was deposed. The act of falling down from the cradle is a metaphor for those who make mistakes from being overconfident or proud.
The many versions that exist of the rhyme/lullaby make it confusing to really know why it was written in such a strange and morbid manner. Each version points to a different time in history where certain practices were prevalent. However, despite all the various interpretations available, the lullaby itself works wonders in rocking babies to sleep, and perhaps that is the only reason it has survived.
Keywords: Lullaby, Rhyme, King James II, Kenyons, Native Americans, Colonisers
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,