BL Diary - Witty Ruia

OUR BUREAUS | Updated on July 16, 2011 Published on July 04, 2011




When it invited Shashi Ruia, Chairman of the Essar group, to address its members , the Rotary Club of Madras could surely not have imagined that it would turn out to be a spicy evening with the guest's address peppered with as much wit as insights — on India, China and the US. A member of the audience posed this question to Ruia: If I ask you to name one business you would enter now, what would you say? The journalists present there became alert, sensing news. What is it that Essar is not present in today? What would they want to get into? Aviation? Pharmaceuticals?

Now, it is not as if you can trap Shashi Ruia with a question like that. Combining subterfuge with wit, he replied: “It is too dirty to mention here.”

P.S: But when the audience's laughter subsided, he gave a different response. “Whatever it is, it will not be telecom.” Essar has just sold its 33 per cent in Vodafone Essar for a cool $5.46 billion!

His heart beats for Chennai

More on Shashi Ruia. At the same meeting, another member of the audience asked him that, given that he started his business in Chennai, would he come back?

This time, the response was not a joke — it was straight from the heart.

He said that nowhere did he find the kind of warmth among the people as he did in Chennai. “Chennai is Chennai, no question about that,” said Shashi Ruia, who speaks Tamil fluently and without an accent. He still has his old house here. “After retirement, I will come and settle down there.”

The real loser

The story goes that when two cats were fighting over a piece of bread, there came along a monkey, scales in hand, and under the pretext of divvying up the bread, ate up all of it, leaving the cats looking like jackasses.

Well, the Tamil Nadu government has made it be known that the French car company, Peugeot, is setting up shop in Tamil Nadu, although the company itself has said absolutely nothing.

The alternative site that Peugeot was considering was a piece of land that forms a part of the Sri City industrial estate, in Andhra Pradesh, just across the Tamil Nadu border.

Ever since newspapers reported Peugeot's ‘choice' of Tamil Nadu, the promoter-Managing Director of Sri City, Ravi Sannareddy, has been having to respond to commiserating messages from friends, stressing that the French company has said nothing and the game was far from won. So, when some newspapers reported that Peugeot was talking to Gujarat, the smile came back on his face.

To connect up with the cats-and-monkey story, the flip side of the intense competition to pull in foreign investments is the self-emasculating ‘I-more-than-you' generosity in offering concessions, a process that only benefits the investor. These are the whispers BL Diary is increasingly hearing these days.

A question of questions

We Indians love to express ourselves. We love the existence of another point of view, because we can hate it, and then what have you: An intellectual arm-wrestle. The more polemical a debate gets, the spicier it is.

But the man who thought he could inveigle the cool and erudite RBI Deputy Governor, Dr Subir Gokarn, into one, soon learnt who he was up against. Seizing an opportunity to ask a question after a speech that Dr Gokarn delivered in Chennai recently, this man expanded on something that that RBI did which he was unhappy about, until the others were visibly upset over the amount of time he was taking.

Dr Gokarn, on his part, was unflappable. “It is your opinion, but I didn't hear a question”, he said, and moved on to the next questioner.

Small consolation

It was at a talk on trends in the aviation industry — a speaker recalled this conversation he had with somebody about the status of India's national carrier and its ongoing troubles.

Each time there is a strike by the airline, thousands of passengers are put to untold hardship. Why is it that the airline's staff always decides to strike work beginning from midnight, he had wondered sadly.

His friend gave a consoling reply: “Thank god, it is only midnight. Not mid-air.”

Comedy of errors

Dahar” in the Santhali language means a road. And, “ Sindhu Kanu Dahar” in Kolkata was named after the heroes of the Santhal rebellion against the English. But the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, mistook ‘ Dahar' as another tribal hero. Addressing a programme on the occasion of a Santhal festival at “ Sindhu Kanu Dahar”, she went on referring ‘his' contributions in the nationalist movement. If that was not all, another city road is proposed to be renamed after “ Dahar”!

Elections, Minister?

Are general elections around the corner? Strange as this may sound, this is the question on the minds of aviation industry watchers.

What triggers this thought is that the Civil Aviation Ministry is busy inaugurating upgraded airport terminals across the country. If one day it is an airport in the North-East, the next day it is the turn of Bhopal in central India. What has set tongues wagging is the fact that just before the last general elections, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had gone on an airport-inauguration spree, cutting ribbons at various airports in a short span of time.

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Published on July 04, 2011
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