October 10 is Meherbai Tata’s 142nd birth anniversary
Jamshedpur, Oct 9: Born on October 10, 1879, in Mumbai, popularly known as ‘Mehri’, Lady Meherbai Tata was fond of literature, piano and was the only lady who played professional tennis in the traditional Indian attire – Sari. The daughter of H J Bhabha, then Inspector-General of Education of Mysore State, Lady Meherbai was married to Sir Dorabji Tata on February 14, 1898.
A sports enthusiast, Lady Meherbai was the winner of the Triple Crown at Western India Tennis tournament. She also drove her own motor car. At the age of 38, Lady Meherbai made a mark by heading a deputation to the then Viceroy to protest on the treatment towards labourers of Indian origin in the British colonies, like Fiji Islands and became one of the founders of the Bombay Presidency Women’s Council and the National Council of Women. She was also consulted on the Sarda Act designed to outlaw child marriage.
Lady Meherbai was around 50 when she was diagnosed with Leukemia and within a year, on June 18, 1931, she passed away in Ruthin, North Wales. Tata Memorial Hospital, India’s first and the leading hospital for the treatment and research of cancer, was founded in her honour.
One of the most memorable stories about this inspiring woman is about the beautiful diamond she owned and later gave away.
In 1924, when the world was reeling under severe depression and Tata Steel was struggling, Sir Dorab Tata pledged the family wealth of over 1 crore which included the Jubilee Diamond, at 245 carats, which was bigger than the famous Kohinoor Diamond, and bought for her by her loving husband, to pay outstandings, including salaries of TISCO employees.