It happened in Los Angeles, after college when he landed a job at an architecture firm, where he had a great time and the weather was beautiful, he had his own car and loved his job, sometime in the early 1960, when Tata was in his mid-20s.
“It was in LA that I fell in love and almost got married. But at the same time, I had made the decision to move back at least temporarily since I had been away from my grandmother who wasn't keeping too well for almost 7 years,” he said.
However, he later went to visit his flame, optimistically believing that the person he wanted to marry would come to India with him.
“But because of the 1962 Indo-China War, her parents weren't okay with her making the move anymore, and the relationship fell apart,” said Tata – the Chairman Emeritus of Tata Group – in a candid post on Facebook page ‘Humans Of Bombay'.
Though he has not mentioned, perhaps that unrequited love made the 82-year old completely immerse himself in looking after his huge business empire and he remained a bachelor.
There were no regrets, he said. “I had a happy childhood, but as my brother (Jimmy) and I got older, we faced a fair bit of ragging and personal discomfort because of our parent's (Naval H. Tata and Sooni Tata) divorce, which in those days wasn't as common as it is today.”
Soon afterwards, when his mother got re-married, the boys at school started saying all kinds of things about them, constantly and aggressively, he recalled.
However at that time, his grandmother, Navajbai Sett-Tata raised the two brothers – Ratan and Jimmy – and taught them to retain dignity at all costs, “a value that's stayed with me until today”.
Most of those situations involved “walking away” otherwise they would have fought back against them, he admitted, sharing fond memories of his strong bond with his granny.
“I remember, after WW2, she took my brother and I for summer holidays in London. It was there that the values were really hammered in. She'd tell us, ‘Don't say this', or ‘Keep quiet about that' and that's where ‘Dignity above everything else' really embedded in our minds. And she's always been there for us. Its difficult now to say whos right or wrong,” said Tata.
Opening up on the series of differences he harboured with his father, Tata said while he wanted to play the violin, his father insisted on the piano, he wanted to study in a US college, but his father insisted on the UK, he wanted to become an architect, but his father wanted him to become an engineer.
Here again, it was his grandmother who rushed to the rescue. “If it weren't for my grandmother, I wouldn't have ended up at Cornell University (College of Architecture, New York) in the US. It was because of her that even though I enrolled for Mechanical Engineering, I switched majors and graduated with a degree in Architecture,” Tata wrote, adding that though his father was quite upset with all this.
“There was a fair bit of rancour, but I was finally my own, independent person in college, and it was my grandmother who taught me that courage to speak up can also be soft and and dignified,” said the living legend behind the Tata.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])