Maharashtra MP Supriya Sule today said she would remember her family friend Cyrus Mistry, the former Tata Sons chairman, as “a dedicated father and husband… who hated anything flashy”.
The NCP leader, daughter of former union minister Sharad Pawar, spoke of family ties going back several decades with Cyrus Mistry and the Shapoorji Pallonji business clan. “Even when he had the huge job (as Tata chairperson), he and (his wife) Rohiqa wanted as low a profile as possible. They would be having dinners with prime ministers… be meeting Presidents, but won’t want attention,” she told NDTV.
Cyrus Mistry, who died on September 4 at the age of 54, had succeeded Ratan Tata as chairman of Tata Sons in 2012 but was ousted four years later in India’s most high-profile boardroom coup.
Supriya Sule recalled an anecdote from when he was the Tata Sons chairman: “In Mumbai, I had the habit of taking a 10-minute walk to the Secretariat, and one day a car stopped next to me. Cyrus was inside. He asked me why I was walking to office… In turn, I asked him why he was travelling in that Tata car. I told him to get a bigger, fancier car. But his was the smallest car in Bombay House (headquarters of Tata Sons).”
On whether the acrimonious exit from Tata had left Cyrus Mistry a bitter man, she said, “Not at all. He was exceptionally dignified, during and after.”
Ms Sule also spoke about the Pandoles, the other business family whose members were with Cyrus Mistry in the car.
Senior family member Jehangir Pandole also died in the accident, while his son Darius Pandole and his wife Anahita Pandole were injured.
About their current medical condition, Supriya Sule said, “The doctors are amazing. And the Pandoles are recovering well.”
Darius Pandole was an independent director in Tata group firms and had opposed the removal of Cyrus Mistry as the company’s chairman. He’d also left the Tata group with him.
His wife Anahita Pandole, a well-known gynaecologist in Mumbai, was driving the car.
Ms Sule, when asked about how the accident had left her with tough lessons, Supriya Sule said, “Well, before I tell anyone, I have to lead by example. Now on whether I am on a bike or car, it’s safety first. Indians take safety casually. Look at how we travel in trains.”
Both Cyrus Mistry and Jehangir Pandole were in the backseat but not wearing seatbelts, hence were thrown to the front and suffered fatal injuries. This has led to the government announcing that seatbelts in rear seats, too, would be enforced strictly now.
Ms Sule said, “Even I, when I wear a helmet, don’t do it just for safety but because someone might troll me if I didn’t… I travel 8-10 hours a day in a car but now I will wear a belt in the rear seat too. We didn’t have to lose Cyrus.”
She would take “every opportunity of speaking about safety” from now on, she added.