I’m at the gates of Cusrow Baugh, a Parsi residential colony in South Mumbai that looks more like a fortress. As I walk past the gates, it feels like I’ve left time behind. Huge trees lining the path look as old and elegant as this nearly 80-year-old colony. Vintage Fiats are parked besides the latest models. In the huge garden, I can see the elderly chatting away on parkbenches. I enter building F, and taking the wooden stairs to the first floor, I realise it is fitting that RM Lala lives here, in these sublime surroundings.
By Prince Thomas | Forbes India
Over the decades, Lala’s books have chronicled the incredible history of the Tatas, India’s oldest and perhaps most respected business family. Thanks to his proximity to the Tatas, these books have put on record this legacy for coming generations. When I started working on the feature on the Tata trusts (cover story of Forbes India’s 17th August 2012 issue), two of those books—The Heartbeat of a Trust and The Creation of Wealth—were my starting points in gathering information, and they also helped me break the ice with Lala.
Inside the apartment, Lala’s nurse Fatima D’Souza shows me into a room that has a huge shelf full of books. Several family photographs decorate the wall. D’Souza switches on the table fan (“Mr Lala doesn’t like the ceiling fan”) and warns me that Lala is unwell, but I am still taken by sadness and guilt as she wheels in a frail man, with a faint resemblance to the Lala I was familiar with from photos. But as I soon realise, much to my delight, his clarity of mind is intact and so is his sense of humour.
But first he has a tough question: “Why does Forbes India want to know about the Tatas trusts?”
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