12 February 2007
The occasion couldn't have been more opportune, and the chief guest and Maharashtra Governor S M Krishna pointed it out while releasing the book, One Day At A Time, a biography on veteran industrialist B K Birla and his wife Dr Sarla Devi, at the Ravindra Natya Mandir on Monday evening.
"While grandson Kumar Mangalam Birla dominated today's headlines with the Novelis deal making the nation proud, the biography of his grandparents B K Birla and Dr Sarala Devi celebrates and provides a peek into a family that has been closely associated with national growth since the independence movement. The Birlas are a pioneer in introducing ethics, morality and spirituality into business," he said.
While on stage the Birla family was represented by Rajashree Birla, Kumar Mangalam and Neerja Birla, off it Yash and Avanti Birla led the guests list with representatives from some of Mumbai's leading industrial families, like Harsh Goenka and Tina Ambani, and Mumbai Police Commissioner A N Roy.
Rajashree Birla introduced the book, authored by Ingrid Albuquerque Solomon, stating that it admirably captured the many facets of B K Birla and Sarala Devi's 65 years of togetherness since their marriage in the summer of 1942.
One of the evening's high point was journalist-anchor Rajiv Mehrotra's reading of some touching passages revolving around the early memories of a young Kumar Mangalam Birla of his grandparents.
Stating that his grandparents had lived the life of a Sthita Pragyan as mentioned in the Bhagwat Gita, Kumar Mangalam had noted: "One of the biggest lessons of their life is that they never talked about their faith, they rather lived it."
Many interesting nuggets from the lives of the energetic couple were shared by family members and the author like their trek to the arduous Kedarnath more than 15 times, B K Birla's first day at work at the age of 14, Sarala Devi's insistence at meeting the man she was going to marry (an act unthinkable for girls in the 1940s) and the fact that the senior Birla goes to office from 9 am to 5 pm at the age of 86 and works non-stop without taking a lunch break.
However, spirituality seemed to define the overall mood at the event, with author Solomon taking it to an altogether different height by singing a devotional song and stating: "The biography is the journey of a grand young spiritual couple with grace that's worthy of emulation and not about their white graphs (business success) and spinning wheels."
An overwhelmed Solomon, who hails from Bangalore, also provided a lighter touch to the evening, when she made a "a politically incorrect" plea to governor Krishna to return to Bangalore saying: "Please come home. Maharashtra can have many governors, but we need you more in Bangalore."
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A US $41 billion corporation, the Aditya Birla Group is in the League of Fortune 500. It is anchored by an extraordinary force of over 120,000 employees, belonging to 42 different nationalities.
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