For the first time, from within the pages of one book on topics of wide-ranging interest, emerges the considered thought of a man who for half a century and more has headed the country's largest industrial complex. This complex, blazing new trails, has helped India convert itself from a geographic expression into a modern industrial state.
During these fifty odd years, he has participated in and led national debates, helped stimulate and mould public opinion, and influenced – however indirectly – Government policy. Much against his wishes, he has had, sometimes, to wear the mantle of a seer and like all prophets at home, he has often been misunderstood, even ignored. He belongs to a very select, now almost extinct tribe of Indians, who strode across the pages of early twentieth century Indian history with courage, dynamism and élan lifting the whole sub-continent from the slough of serfdom to that never-to-be-forgotten midnight in August 1947 when it kept its tryst with destiny.
Fortunately, J.R.D. Tata is still with us, the last of this tribe but still retaining much of its glitter and all of its charisma. He is a man living fully in his own times, but constantly searching for the development that lies ahead. He is vitally interested, for example, in space exploration, in the unfolding marvels of genetics and proud though he is of his country's great heritage, he would will it if he could into the electronic age with one single giant thrust. He thinks deeply, speaks gently, is more often than not a reconciler of opinions rather than an upholder of vested interests. There is no conflict in his mind between the small and large, the private and public sectors, but he holds firmly to the belief that if private enterprise and initiative are sought to be stifled, political liberty will inevitably be the next casualty.
The book is divided into nine sections. In the opening section, J.R.D. Tata looks back over the eventful decades of his life from the twenties till today. A section of particular interest entitled The Song of the Clouds' includes a speech he delivered to the Rotary Club of Bombay in 1933 and concludes with his address at a reception to celebrate the landing of his Karachi-Bombay fiftieth anniversary flight in 1982. The centre of the book consists of his thinking on economic matters, on industry, on planning and human relations. The section 'A Strategy for Survival' includes his views on the population explosion and the Presidential System, on which he has been a pioneering spokesman. In the penultimate section The Emerging Society' he looks forward to the evolving polity of the next century.
At eighty-two, J.R.D. is still as crisp and fresh in thought and action as a man half his age. When you meet him, he prefers to talk about your future rather than his past. He belittles his own accomplishments which are not inconsiderable, except his skills at skiing about which he is quite ready to boast.
India's continued poverty saddens him profoundly, its slow progress towards its elimination is for him a major source of frustration and yet he is ever ready to do what he can to throw into the battle his countrymen's skills and initiative and harness them to the technical innovations that are available world-wide.
It is the Editors' hope that by confining the thoughts of such a man within the pages of a single volume, by bringing before the mind's eye his essential human qualities, his intrinsically civilised approach to problems, it will help the reader to stretch his own thoughts beyond the parameters of immediate concern to the nation's larger well-being.
S.A.S. and R.M.L.
April 2, 1986