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Lalit Suri lived life in the fast lane

Six years ago, Hillary Clinton conferred the award for outstanding accomplishments in business and leadership in New York.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2006 18:04 IST

High-profile hotelier and MP Lalit Suri who died of a heart attack in London loved the fast life. And one manifestation of that was his obsession with automobiles.

The one-time auto engineer -- who went on to own several top line hotels in the country -- had done a two-year year specialisation in automobile engineering with Vauxhall Motors, Britain, and had a fleet of high-end cars.

Though he preferred to go to parliament in his black Prada SUV, it was his high performance Lamborghini sports car, parked at its designated slot at New Delhi's Inter-Continental hotel, that was the apple of his eye.

"Of course, I still love cars and would love to drive off on my Lamborghini for long journeys. But the roads in India are not very good," he once remarked.

Incidentally, Subros, the car air-conditioning company, is part of the Suri family's assets.

Born in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan), Suri graduated from the Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi.

Given earlier to a hedonistic lifestyle, Suri's parties were renowned for their opulence. Card parties, in the run-up to Diwali, were only for a select club of close friends who played for high stakes.

But all that changed. Colleagues reminisce that three years ago Suri embarked on a strict exercise regimen after suffering a stroke and religiously took to morning walks and golf.

"He also went for a crash course to lose weight and enrolled with Dr Shikha Sharma, a Delhi based well-known fitness expert and weight-loss consultant," says a hotel official.

"In fact his trips to Tirupati, the historic temple in Andhra Pradesh, also increased."

In November last year, Suri successfully bid for the prestigious 165-year-old Great Eastern Kolkata for Rs 520 million ($11.3 million) that is expected to be re-commissioned after restoration by early 2007 as The Grand Great Eastern Kolkata. Suri clinched the deal pipping two other bidders - Ramuk Scan AB and the Unitech Group.

As chairman and managing director of Bharat Hotels Limited, Suri was highly regarded in the Indian and international community for his dynamism, foresight and forward thinking.

Proof of that was seen in the many accolades and excellence awards he won in recognition of his contributions - both in the fields of business and public services.

The Rashtriya Samman Patra for being amongst the highest tax payers in the country, the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award in recognition of his socio-economic achievements in India, The Order of Merit from the Indian Council of Management Executives for services rendered to the public were just a few of the awards he got.

Six years ago, former US first lady Hillary Clinton conferred on him the prestigious award for outstanding accomplishments in business and leadership at the International Millennium Convention in New York.

Some of Suri's other ambitions were operating an air-taxi service and boosting the circulation of his struggling afternoon Midday newspaper in Delhi. This, he hoped, would happen once the Metro was fully operational.

Suri, who enjoyed a close rapport with the Gandhi family, was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 from Uttar Pradesh with the backing of the then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. He was close to several politicians, including Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.