Scrolling your social media feeds, you might have come across the story of Shantanu Naidu — a young boy in his early twenties who got noticed by industrialist Ratan Tata for his startup that developes reflective collars for stray dogs to prevent night-time road accidents. It is lesser known that first Tata went on to invest in Naidu’s startup, and gradually offered Naidu to work in his private office as a personal assistant. Now, the 28-year-old has put together a short memoir of Ratan Tata titled I Came Upon a Lighthouse.
In this book, Naidu shares his close and candid interactions with Tata, and looks back at how his chance virtual interaction with the philanthropist happened. “I’ve known Mr Tata since five years now. Over time we spoke a lot about different topics and causes. There was a camaraderie that developed before I left to pursue MBA from Cornell University (New York). There I dived into entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and always intended to come back to India and work. On my return, Mr Tata offered me a job in his office, primarily as a personal assistant, to manage his start-up investments, and also to help him with the TATA trust initiatives.”
All this motivated Naidu to pen a book on Ratan Tata, using illustrations, to elaborate his personal experiences on being part of the renowned man’s inner circle? “Five years ago when I started to get to know Mr Tata better, my mom suggested that I write down all that’s happening in a small red diary. Eventually that one red diary lead to two, three red diaries and I realised that my parents, and the people who found out about my stories and experiences with Mr Tata, were keen to get to know more about him. So I felt it’s worthwhile to share this privilege with people,” he says.
What makes Naidu’s work different from other books written on the business tycoon so far, is that his writing is from the point of view of a millennial, which is a fresh young perspective! “Mr Tata has till now been seen as a hardcore industrialist who has a lot of wisdom and humility. This is correct, but there are other shades of him as well, which people have mostly failed to capture in books, because I think they are largely written from the business mindset and not from a younger and more millennial mindset. This is sad because Mr Tata usually surrounds himself with so many youngsters as he feels that being around young people puts him back in that age, and he can exercise his mind. All of these reasons propelled me to write this book from a fresh, young and candid perspective.”
“Mr Tata has till now been seen as a hardcore industrialist who has a lot of wisdom and humility. This is correct, but there are other shades of him as well, which people have mostly failed to capture in books.” — Shantanu Naidu, author
One of the key points that Naidu wants to highlight through his book is how inter generation friendships blossom into wonderful relationships. “Being around and learning from the Mr Tata is a privilege that I acknowledge, it’s something that needs to be documented for yourself as well because over time memories fade, stories fade. Inter generational friendships are something that aren’t talked about or encouraged much. However, I love them! And, the older generation is very fun to get to know too. My story is a perfect example of how an inter generational friendship can be. Through this book, I also wanted to bring to the fore, the facet that friendships don’t need to be among same age groups or classes… my relationship with Mr Tata broke all those barriers. Mr Tata is someone who is always keen to learn, and looking for opportunities to talk to young people; that forms the basis of any friendship – the fact that you want to listen to each other.”
Expected to release in January 2021, this book according to Naidu will solidify the fact how Mr Tata leads his life by example. “As much as people would’ve wanted a book that I wrote that says 10 things that I learnt from Mr Tata, this book is totally different. You see, his way of mentorship is different. He leads by example, and that is why it’s important to tell the story as it happened. What I have written in the book is my perspective of how Mr Tata was being a trend by example or how he was teaching by examples. What’s interesting is that when someone reads a story as it happened, they might find some more lessons from there. So I haven’t drawn out a conclusion that this is the lesson I learnt from it. I’ve of course written what I gathered from it, but by recreating what I saw and where my life overlapped his, I’ve tried to give the space to readers to interpret certain lessons themselves of what sort of an individual Mr Tata is and what all they can learn from him. So instead of having a book about 50 things that I learnt from Mr Tata, I think seeing it exactly as it happened is more informative,” adds Naidu.
Making the book visually aesthetic and gripping are the illustrations. Naidu explains the reason behind incorporating illustrations: “Visualising how things happened helps me to understand something deeply. In the millennial aspect, we are very limited on our attention span. So illustrations help us to visualise and get engaged in a story quickly. It also makes sure that people aren’t imagining it too far from how I saw it. I wanted the emotion to be amplified and some of the illustrations definitely do that. If it’s going to be a book that’s coming from the place of love and affection, then these illustration were important. Mr Tata has always been drawn and shown in the pictures dressed in business suits etc. But in the illustrations in this book, you will see the guard being let down. It has captured our interpersonal moments more realistically.”
“I wanted the emotion to be amplified and some of the illustrations definitely do that… Mr Tata has always been drawn and shown in the pictures dressed in business suits etc. But in the illustrations in this book, you will see the guard being let down.” — Shantanu Naidu, author
It’s natural then to ask, what was Ratan Tata’s reaction when Naidu told him about this book on him? The author replies, “I had been telling Mr Tata that I will write a book on him, right from when I used to write about my experiences with him in the red diaries. Not once did he oppose it. When the time finally came, I asked for his blessings and he said that everyone has their perspective, everyone has something to say and everyone’s version of the story is different and you should go ahead and tell yours. So I did that… I gave him the entire draft and when he was reading it during the lockdown, he was very touched. He found it to be a very light-hearted read and was touched because the memories that I had captured were exactly as they had happened.”
Author tweets @FizzyBudhha