Ratan and Shilpa share similar trysts with destiny

There are amazing similarities and patterns in the way the two conducted themselves ? and which has brought them together as ambassadors of a resurgent India in a momentous week, reports Narayanan Madhavan.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 15:47 IST

The ancient Hindu and Chinese calendars have years that repeat themselves in 60-year cycles. They are meant to symbolise the turning of the eternal wheel. That came to mind this week as two events took place in Britain, with just six months to go for the 60th anniversary of India's independence in 1947.

On Monday, I had this feeling that India's karma had something more in store when Shilpa Shetty won the Celebrity Big Brother reality TV show on Britain's Channel 4. I thought the next day would belong to Ratan Tata. It did. With his $12.1 billion takeover of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group plc by Tata Steel, the big man of Bombay House proved that there could well be a striking pattern in the way things can change in 60 years.

Now, Shilpa Shetty is a Bollywood actress known more for giggly-girl roles, and hardly resembles Ratan Tata, the soft-spoken scion of the nation's most respected business empire, but there are amazing similarities and patterns in the way the two conducted themselves— and which has brought them together as ambassadors of a resurgent India in a momentous week.

To be sure, Lakshmi Nivas Mittal has made his mark among London's elite, and so have the Hinduja brothers, but the Tatas are something else. They are not wannabe non-residents or double-shored citizens, but true blue Indian entrepreneurs, representing the spirit of the nationand its aspirations.

As it turned out,Shetty showed that she represented this spirit as much in popular culture, asTata did in the world of global business. If the pink-sheets pronounced the blue-suited Parsi gentleman as a new doyen, the tabloids vied with each other to grab the Bunt woman who sports red chiffon sarees.

Ratan Tata showed he was tough, as Tata Steel outbid Brazil's CSN in a nerve-racking climax to the takeover battle that began last October. But both at the beginning ofwhat seemed like a friendly takeover and at the end of what turned out to be a audacious auction, Tata kept his cool while fighting to prove a point.

That seemed a lot like Shetty's conduct in the face of racial taunts and rude behaviour as she tried to win the hearts of her housemates. She made her points strongly, without a tit-for-tat approach, and, after winning the game, spoke more about the graciousness of the British people than allegations of racist conduct.

It turns out that Jade Goody, the disgraced actress, was the perfect agent to bring out the best in Shetty, while CSN's Benjamin Steinbruch played a similar role in Tata's style statement.

Magnanimous in victory, both Ratan Tata and Shilpa Shetty showed their class, in their mettle and in their métier.

Both, in hindsight, had everything to gain from such grit. Their careers were in greater danger if they were to funk out of their respective games.

Ifthe 70-year-old Tata had let go of Corus, he would not have an easy chance elsewhere to enter the top global league in steel with perfect cultural fit such as the one offered by the former British Steel.

If the 31-year-old Shetty had merely made money from Big Brother, she would have only gotten richer, not earned the diva reputation which has given a boost to her once-failing career. Both Tata Steel and Shilpa Shetty are now ready to take on European markets.

And finally, in the game of professonal rivalry, Ratan Tata's conduct offered a subtle message of arrival to Lakshmi Mittal, while Shilpa Shetty did the same to Aishwarya Rai, the former Miss World and fellow Bunt who won fame last month for her engagement to trophy boyfriend Abhishek Bachchan.

There are many similarities between Lakshmi Mittal and Aishwarya Rai. That, as they say, is another story.

Email Narayanan Madhavan: Madhavan.n@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Feb 01, 2007 15:47 IST