'What matters is the colour of the heart'

Updated: Feb 08, 2020, 07:58 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Legal eagle Sarosh Zaiwallas book release was a mix of the personal, political and philosophical

Sarosh Zaiwalla, Bachi Karkaria and Adi Godrej at the book launch. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Sarosh Zaiwalla, Bachi Karkaria and Adi Godrej at the book launch. Pic/Suresh Karkera

London-based and Mumbai-born legal eagle Sarosh Zaiwalla's book 'Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian lawyer in the English courts' released at the Press Club at Azad Maidan on Thursday. It was launched by Godrej group chairman, Adi Godrej, who was Zaiwalla's first client, but he said, "I have very little recollection about that." Zaiwalla too, touched upon his childhood in Mumbai in a separate chat and added, "I used to live on Hughes Road. I pass by the area when I'm here but don't remember too many landmarks."

The evening took off with an introduction of the book. Editor the book, K Chopra of Harper Collins said they were contemplating naming the book 'Bombay Boy' but then settled for 'Honour Bound'. Godrej said the book is, "very anecdotal and tells us how difficult it is to start a new business in a new country."

Senior journalist and columnist Bachi Karkaria, who was the anchor, started by saying, "Sarosh has worked for a number of governments, including the Indian government." Zaiwalla laughed as he said he was, "sacked by the Indian government for acting for the Bachchans in the Bofors case." He added, "Soon though I got a call from the Chinese government. This was December 1991. The Chinese wanted me to help set up a legal system there. It is one country where an Indian is respected more than a European." Zaiwalla added that it was evident, "that China did not want conflict over borders with India at one point. As a Communist country, they wanted full employment for their people and for that, they wanted trade." When asked about his meeting with Dalai Lama, Zaiwalla said, "A Chinese official was not very happy initially when I told him that I was going to meet him in Glasgow." He added, "The Chinese had said then that the Dalai Lama could come back but more as a pastoral head looking after his flock."

Jammu & Kashmir
A central motif in Zaiwalla's philosophy was that he believed in "globalisation and one mankind, where it is the colour of the heart and not that of the skin or a religion that matters." He said that it was what attracted him to the Baha'i faith. He added that one way to resolve the Tibet issue was to have investment there, "where there is food, clothing and shelter, people are happy. This in a way should be done in Kashmir. We must see foreign and Indian investment in J&K."

Benazir Bhutto
With the conversation veering towards politics, Zaiwalla was asked about his friend, late Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He said, "Benazir had told me that the Wahabis are funding the insurgency in Kashmir. Benazir was a good friend, we hit it off very well. In fact, after I got divorced, she told me I must marry again. She arranged a lunch at her sister's home, where she introduced me to four fat, middle-aged women and then asked me, well which one did you like and I said, none."

As the February breeze wafted across the terrace of the club, Zaiwalla's anecdotes spanned the spectrum, from representing a "mafia don in a matter involving an Olympic village — he did not pay me!" He said for his St Xavier's school days in Mumbai, where, "Sunil Gavaskar got me out LBW for zero in an inter-class match!"

England eye
The man who went to England in the 1970s and made it there, has seen good and bad times. "England was not racist, it was classist, but when the English were convinced of your professional integrity, they accepted you wholeheartedly," he said, adding, "In England, India is very well respected." A few questions from the audience later, the curtain closed with Zaiwalla 'Bound to Honour' yet another appointment at the whirlwind book launch tour, in the city of his birth.

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