Monday, December 4, 2023

Tata Steel’s memorable gift that radiates at Meherbhai-Dorab mausoleum in Surrey

By Ronald D’Costa

On Saturday, 10th October 2020, the 141st birth anniversary of Lady Meherbai Tata, wife of Sir Dorabji, Tata Steel rededicated the Sir Dorabji Tata Park opposite the Keenan Stadium to the people of Jamshedpur. It recognised Lady Meherbhai Tata and after twenty five years, installed her statue opposite her dear and thoughtful husband, Sir Dorab.

A fitting memorial to the eldest son of Tata group founder, J.N. Tata, had been erected in 1995, almost 73years after his passing away (1932). Now, 20 years later, a giant  glowing Diamond balancing on its tip was erected opposite the  Keenan stadium (named after John Lawrence Keenan, GM for 25 years – 1913 – 1938), flanked on two sides by the house of Sir Jehangir Gandhi,  the first Indian General Manager of Tisco, on the south, and Sacred Heart School on the north as a tribute to this great man.

It celebrates the fact that 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 which was  bigger than the famous Kohinoor Diamond, to pay outstandings, including salaries of TISCO employees.

His wife, Lady Meherbai Bhabha Tata, was born in1879 to Dr. Hormusji Bhabha in Mysore State. A pioneer of the women’s movement in India and one of the founders of the Bombay Presidency Women’s Council and the National Council of Women, she was a part of the initiative to outlaw child marriage, for higher education for women, against the purdah system and the practice of untouchability. She actively raised contributions and generously helped the Indian Red Cross Society during the War. In 1919 her services to the war efforts and women were recognised when she was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and received it at the hands of King George V.

Meherbhai and Dorabji Tata

She played in several tennis tournaments and won over sixty prizes. She was a good rider and drove her own motor car. Meherbhai’s brother, Jehangir Bhabha’s son, was Homi Bhabha, founder of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, who put India on the Nuclear map. He had an unfortunate death in the Air India aircrash on Mont Blanc.

Lady Meherbai Bhabha Tata passed away on the 13th of June 1931 aged 51, and was buried at Brookwood cemetery, Surrey, South West of London UK. A few months later her husband, Dorabji Tata, built a beautiful mausoleum in her memory.

TISCO’s contribution to the Mausoleum

In 1932 Sir Dorab approached the general manager of Tata Steel to fabricate and copy a Persian design for the entrance gate to his wife’s mausoleum in London. The enthusiastic workers of the Jamshedpur works put their best efforts to produce a gateway that would justify their Chairman’s pride in their skill. The details of the design were received at Jamshedpur in January 1932 and this joint production of several departments of the Works was fully finished and dispatched in February, 1932 – in record time. It was a tribute to the family that was willing to give all they had to save their company. 

Lady Meherbhai Mausoleum Gateway in Brookwood, Surrey (UK)

Description of the Gate

The gate, as Mr. R.L. Day describes it, was 6′-8″ high and 3′-0″ wide, with a framing of steel squares into which were inset 17 cast iron ornamental panels and wrought iron ornaments.

“This represented the craftsmanship of the Jamshedpur employees.”

The wrought steel designs, the steel framing, the cast iron ornaments and all fittings such as keys, hinges. etc., were made in the different departments of the Jamshedpur Shops – the Welding, Blacksmith and Machine Shops, the Pattern Shop and the Foundry. the Blast Furnace, Duplex Plant, New Blooming Mill, Sheet Bar and Billet Mill and the Merchant Mill.

The design of the gate was a copy of an ancient Persian gateway. It reflects as much credit on the British architect and sculptor who designed it, as on the Indian craftsmen in TISCO who played a major part in the erection of this magnificent edifice. The mausoleum, therefore, is a combination of British workmanship in its stone work, of Persian design and Indian craftsmanship in the iron gateway. It is a symbol of the unification of oriental art with the Occidental and will be an emblem of goodwill and cooperation between the East and the West – the world of thought and the world of action…

Sir Dorab Tata did not last long after the erection of this steel work of art. He passed away on 3rd June 1932 in Bad Kissenger and his ashes have been interred alongside his dearest wife at Brookwood.

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