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Home / Mumbai News / Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Fiery exchange

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Fiery exchange

mumbai Updated: Apr 05, 2018 16:44 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Hindustan Times
MV Subbiah getting his Padma Bhushan from former president Pratibha Patil; (left) Dilip Piramal.
MV Subbiah getting his Padma Bhushan from former president Pratibha Patil; (left) Dilip Piramal.

A most extraordinary story has emerged from the very top echelons of corporate India, one that sheds light on prevailing attitudes to issues far beyond its confines.

It concerns a gentleman so revered, he is almost legendary for his corporate statesmanship. To be sure, former executive chairman of the Murugappa Group, MV Subbiah, patriarch of the Murugappa family, recipient of a Padma Bhushan, is said to be the banyan tree of corporate India.

So last week, when he was invited to participate in a discussion on ‘family businesses’, a subject on which he is considered one of the foremost authorities, the audience at a mid-city five-star is said to have been stunned when he made a statement so regressive, they weren’t sure they’d heard it right.

It happened this way: when asked about his group’s policy of not allowing the women of the family in managerial roles, Subbiah responded by saying he endorsed the rule and added. “In fact, I am happy to say that in this generation, we have 11 male members and only one woman.” This is when the Mumbai-based chairman and managing director of VIP Industries Limited, Dilip Piramal, is reported to have stood up and demanded the business leader withdraw the statement. “You cannot stand in front of us and say you are happy that you have 11 men and one woman…” is the gist of what Piramal said.

But Subbiah is said to have stuck to his guns, explaining he was sorry that he came across as ‘politically incorrect’ but: a rule was a rule. “I’m sorry! You are not politically incorrect.” Piramal stood up again to say, “You are morally incorrect.”

We are not sure if they shook hands and made up after this fiery round, but as we were saying, a most extraordinary story had emerged from the very top echelons of corporate India, one that sheds light on prevailing attitudes and issues far beyond its confines…


So what is it like to be a billion-dollar Indian tycoon currently under the scanner for unserviced bank loans with more zeroes in them then we can ever get our heads around?

What’s it like when your name is in the headlines and the CBI and other authorities are going through your affairs with a fine-toothed comb?

You would think a teeny shred of anxiety might blight the horizon?

Not if this conversation that is said to have occurred between one such Master of The Universe and a concerned relative is true.

Apparently worried about his progeny’s future, tied up as it is in matrimony to the family under scrutiny, the father of one of the clan’s daughters-in-law is said to have sought some reassurance about her security, from her husband, if push comes to shove, etc.

“Do you have enough money for the family’s future?” the concerned senior citizen is reported to have enquired rather tentatively. He need not have worried.

“As much as there are stars in the sky,” was the gallant response the old man is said to have received.




Tuesday was a day of quiet remembrance for the late Parveen Babi, who would have been 69 had she lived. In a perceptive article, our colleague Nivedita Mishra presents a far more humane view of her life than previously seen.

‘She was also a rather perceptive human being; a rebel in her own way. Charming and witty and well read, the writer quotes a friend of the actress as saying, “She was wonderful company, very articulate, a terrific conversationalist, extremely well-read.”

We had only met the actress a couple of times at her home in Juhu where a poet friend had taken us to discuss … what else, but an upcoming poetry reading. She had been warm and gracious, but a bit reserved. The schizophrenia was to come later.

Mercifully, early diagnosis of the illness is more prevalent these days and such situations need not take away the best and brightest amongst us anymore.

But on Tuesday, our thoughts were with Parveen Babi and her brief, but eventful life and times.

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