October 2016 | Vibha Rao

Unveiling Tata heritage

The latest exhibition of Tata Central Archives showcases various landed, residential and commercial properties owned, rented and leased by the Tata family

The Tata Central Archives 'Tata Family Properties' exhibition being inaugurated by Ishaat Hussain, director, Tata Sons

Tata Central Archives (TCA) unveiled its latest exhibition ‘Tata Family Properties (1822-1965)’ on October 8, 2016, at the TCA premises in Pune. A well-attended event, the exhibition was inaugurated by Ishaat Hussain, director, Tata Sons. He also launched the new Tata Central Archives website. Farokh N Subedar, chairman, Tata Services, and TR Doongaji, honorary advisor, Tata Central Archives, were present on the occasion. Also present were Kishor Chaukar, former MD, Tata Industries; PK Ghose, former executive director and CFO Tata Chemicals; and Farokh Rustomjee, CEO, RD Sethna Charity Trust.

Showcasing grandeur
The Tata Family Properties exhibition covers the years between 1822 and 1965 and showcases the extent of landed, residential and commercial properties owned, rented and leased by the Tata family in India and abroad. The exhibition is a reminder of the acute business acumen of the Tata family and how their investments were used for societal good.

The exhibition includes real estate of Nusserwanji and Jeevanbai Tata; Jamsetji and Hirabai Tata; Sir Dorabji and Lady Meherbai Tata; Sir Ratan and Lady Navajbai Tata; RD and Sooni Tata; and Ratanbai Bamji who was Jamsetji Tata’s sister. Also featured are the 14 buildings and three landed properties that Jamsetji Tata vested for the Indian Institute of Science.

The inauguration started with Rajendra Prasad Narla, archivist, Tata Central Archives, delivering the welcome address, followed by the garlanding of JN Tata’s bust and JRD Tata’s photograph by the special guests.

Farokh N Subedar, chairman, Tata Services, addressing the audience at the Tata Central Archives 'Tata Family Properties' exhibition

Mr Subedar spoke fondly of JRD Tata and suggested that the exhibition was a way of trying to understand the lives of the Tata stalwarts through their actions. He said, “We are very privileged to showcase Tata’s rich heritage, and learn from the Tata family members through these prime properties across the globe for both personal and societal use. This is a timeless collection of memories, landmarks and milestones that have stood the test of time and are reminiscent of the Tata family genesis in history.”

Mr Hussain touched upon the uniqueness of the Tata way of doing business and said that Tata Central Archives was the collective memory of the organisation that constantly reinforces the ideas instilled by the Founder. He said, “We are very proud to be able to showcase the grandeur of these properties that have established for themselves a name and place in history. The numerous Tata family properties are shining examples of the Tata commitment and passion towards the great arts and architecture. We believe that with the advent of technology and the wider reach of the internet, heritage displays need not be limited to collections and exhibits. With the revamped website, we hope to establish a platform for the world to know and digitally experience Tata’s rich heritage and evolution.”

A timeless collection
The Tata family properties exhibition highlights a hitherto unseen facet of the Tata family — as land owners. The Tata family, spearheaded by Jamsetji Tata, invested in property as part of their financial policy. Building was Jamsetji’s passion; he purchased and developed several properties for agricultural, industrial and commercial purposes. A few of the prominent buildings developed by Jamsetji were the Esplanade House, Gymkhana Chambers, Belle Vue, Bellair, etc. After his death in 1904, these properties were either sold or bequeathed to his family.

The Esplanade House was a grand family home built by Jamsetji Tata in Mumbai. The plan of the house was drawn up by architects from Europe; it had a central courtyard surrounded by corridors, like the patios Jamsetji greatly admired in Spain. The whole house was furnished in European fashion and every feature in the house was of Jamsetji’s design. The house later became the property of RD Sethna Charity Trust, who recently restored the building to its former glory.

Ishaat Hussain, director, Tata Sons, taking a close look at an antique writing table at the Tata Central Archives ‘Tata Family Properties’ exhibition

Similarly, his heirs Sir Dorabji Tata and Sir Ratan Tata made extensive investments in property. Sir Dorabji Tata possessed over 15 buildings and numerous plots of lands, shares, securities and jewellery; all of which was left to the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. Some of his prominent properties include the Dalkeith Estate in Panchgani, the Ruby Hall and Gladhurst Estate in Pune, etc.

Sir Ratan Tata owned several properties in India and abroad, including the York House, his palatial home in Twickenham, UK, and the Tata House in Mumbai, both of which are featured in the exhibition. The exhibition also explores RD Tata’s landholdings in India, Paris and the French seaside resort of Hardelot.

The Tata family were great patrons of education and helped establish several educational institutions across the country. These invaluable contributions are showcased in the exhibition, which also explores grants given by the Tata family to institutions like the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Cambridge, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, etc.

The Tata family properties exhibition is a reminder of the business acumen of the Tata founders. It narrates the exceptional growth story of a family which was responsible for the very genesis of Indian industry. The inaugural event concluded with a note of thanks by Vanessa Fernandes, senior officer, archives, Tata Central Archives, followed by an excellent lunch, where everyone spoke in awe of the indelible mark left by the Tata family on the history of our country.