The Power Of SMS

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Can Call the Shots

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 5, 2009

The New York Times

 

By Heather Timmons
NEW DELHI — When the Indian composer A. R. Rahman accepted two Oscars for his work on “Slumdog Millionaire,” he saved his most effusive thanks for his mother.

Indranil Mukherjee/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A judge wanted Kokilaben Ambani to reunite feuding sons Mukesh, left, and Anil.

Gabriel Bouys/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In accepting an Academy Award for “Slumdog Millionaire,” the composer A. R. Rahman heaped praise on his mother.

“Mother’s here, her blessings are there with me,” Mr. Rahman, 43, told 36 million Oscar viewers. “I am grateful for her to have come all the way.” Later, he remembered to thank his wife, who had also come with him to California.

When Varun Gandhi, the politician and great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was accused last month of making incendiary remarks against Muslims, stoking a national controversy, his most vociferous public supporter was his mother.

Despite a video that appeared to show Mr. Gandhi, 29, mocking Muslim names and calling for harsh punishment for Muslims who commit crimes, Maneka Gandhi insisted her son was innocent. “Varun has not spoken anything like that,” she said. Mr. Gandhi was arrested Saturday on charges of inciting religious hostility.

Mrs. Gandhi says India’s ruling party is conspiring against her son.

Relationships are changing rapidly in modern, urbanized India: extended families are giving way to nuclear ones, women are joining the work force after school rather than heading straight for marriage, and Western habits like dating are becoming more common. But one bond seems to remain as strong as ever — the doting relationship between Indian mothers and their sons.

Some of this country’s most successful businessmen, politicians and entertainers receive maternal counsel daily — and follow it. For example, some political analysts say they believe that Mrs. Gandhi, a politician herself, is fueling her son’s anti-Muslim views. Matriarchs with little formal business experience sit on the boards of industrial giants. Recently, the country’s highest court even told two tycoon siblings to go to their mother to settle a corporate dispute.

There is a “huge, continuing umbilical cord between mothers and sons,” said Tarun Das, a commerce specialist who sits on several corporate boards and is the chief mentor for the Confederation of Indian Industry, a trade group.

The veneration of the mother in India has a long history, rooted in part in Hinduism’s powerful female gods. The country is often referred to as Mother India. Nearly every Bollywood movie features a strong mother character in a leading role. And one of India’s largest suppliers of milk and cheese is Mother Dairy.

“Mother gets the pride of place whatever we do, whatever we say,” said K. Raghavendra, head of human resources at Infosys BPO, the outsourcing unit of Infosys Technologies.

He said the opinions of mothers even influenced hiring in the information technology industry, because young people going to their first job interview often take their parents.

The mother has usually told the father, “We need to go and see the place,” Mr. Raghavendra said.

The increased flow of women into the workplace has not changed the dynamic much.

Mr. Raghavendra, who when asked his age said only that he was “on the wrong side of 40,” noted that his mother was “still my most favorite person.” The two speak every few days.

Mr. Rahman, the composer of the score and award-winning theme song of “Slumdog Millionaire,” refers to his mother as his “business partner.” She pushed him to pursue music although he was interested in science and electronics.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani, long-feuding brothers and two of the world’s richest men, control vast industrial, telecom and retail empires worth tens of billions of dollars.

When they took a squabble over natural gas rights to the Bombay High Court, Justice J. N. Patel suggested the middle-aged billionaires take it up with an even higher power.

“Why don’t you go back to your mother?” he said, apparently in earnest. “It’s a matter of national importance, and a resolution will be in the public interest since natural gas is a national asset,” the justice added.

It may seem that Mrs. Ambani holds an outsize influence over her sons’ multibillion-dollar interests, but it would be difficult to find someone at any of their companies to say so. Advisers to the two men who happily discuss their bosses’ flaws and ambitions clam up when the subject of Mrs. Ambani arises. “I’m not touching that,” said one, laughing nervously.

Like many of India’s tycoons, the Ambani brothers inherited a family business after their father died, and their mother, Kokilaben, is one of a handful of corporate matriarchs who wield power beyond their education or professional experience.

These women may never have studied business, run a factory or cut a deal with a supplier, but they know the companies their husbands controlled inside out. “They were there from the grass-roots level,” Mr. Das said. “They bring practical savvy, instinct and the experience of a lifetime.”

When the metals unit of the conglomerate Aditya Birla Group took over Atlanta-based Novelis, a producer of rolled aluminum, in 2007, the mother of the group’s chairman gave interviews.

“We’re really happy that the business is expanding and the fact that it will benefit our country,” Rajashree Birla told “DNA,” an Indian business newspaper. Ms. Birla, who studied the arts in college, is a director on all of the Aditya Birla Group’s company boards, and leads the conglomerate’s social and community development program.

But of course, mothers’ influence goes beyond mere corporate dealings.

Arun Kashyap, a policy adviser for the United Nations Development Program, based in the United States, said his 83-year-old mother had a “distinct role in the career path I chose,” teaching him that “both wealth and wisdom are goddesses,” and that he could not have both.

Before coming to the United Nations, he worked in education, then for the Rockefeller Foundation.

He calls her in India every day.

Said Mr. Raghavendra of Infosys, “That’s the mind set of all Indian males.”

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One Response

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  1. musicwoman said, on April 5, 2009 at 7:20 am

    The man and his music all started in the womb of his mother! What’s new??? Of course, he’d recognize his Mother because that’s where he came from and he is a conscious being!

    Diva JC
    MUSICWOMAN


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