Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A close friend of Lalgudi Jayaraman

By Akhila Srinivasan

The chairman of the Shriram Group, R Thyagarajan, has been a great patron of the arts and several good causes in his own quiet style for decades now. Carnatic music has been a major beneficiary. A close friend and associate of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman, Thyagarajan makes no secret of his extraordinary admiration for Jayaraman’s musical prowess. In fact, he has often publicly stated that music for him begins and ends with Lalgudi.

Thyagarajan was recently a recipient of the national award of Padma Bhushan. We reproduce below a slightly edited version of a tribute to him by Akhila Srinivasan.

R. Thyagarajan, fondly known as RT, is a Padma Bhushan awardee today. Those close to RT know the enormous persuasion they had to exert on him to accept this exceptional honour. Not that he disagrees with such symbolic affirmatives, but because his life is so simple that the limelight does not fit in to the scheme of his beautifully simple narrative of life. And finally when he relented to accept this honour it was only for the reason that this moment of national recognition could further catalyse the Shriram Group which he founded and guides to raise its own bar in reaching out to the community. For RT, the ultimate end of business and enterprise building has always remained empowering of the community through economic freedom, sustained education, scientific advancement and cultural development. In a globalised and highly competitive corporate world whose greed, opulence and pomposity have come to cloud the liberating splendor of wealth making, R. Thyagarajan represents the audacity of an ancient civilization with unalterable coding of simplicity, dedication, detachment, integrity and common good.

Here is a man blessed with a sharp intellect, business acumen and an awe-inspiring capacity for structured reasoning who built the Shriram Group from a small non-banking financial entity to one of India’s leading business conglomerates. But what stands out as striking is the shining simplicity of the person who remains completely untouched by the spectacular business success. A man whose material needs are bare minimal and wants literally nothing. Almost all his wealth has been given away to the community. Never one to project or profile himself, he did all the giving quietly, befitting the spiritual dictum of true giving - let the left hand not know what the right hand is giving. The list of the good causes and public initiatives he has supported are too many to make a legion.

Endowed with sterling human qualities, Thyagarajan is always a man of edifying composure. Never one to get carried away by subjective human emotions, his inner self is simply wired to be a living template of calmness, dignity, grace and fairness. He has consistently maintained a high degree of fairness and righteous magnanimity in dealing with people. His understanding of human nature is so fine and profound that people who go to him come back unburdened, reconciled and in peace.

To that extent, the greatest contribution of RT to nation building is his generous and committed support as well as trusting mentorship to venturing entrepreneurs with ideas. He is one corporate leader who gives budding entrepreneurs the freedom to fail as well. Without this fundamental commitment of trust in entrepreneurship, the Shriram Group would not be what it is today.

With the Padma Bhushan award, RT joins the exceptional league of extraordinary citizens. But the truth is he will remain the same as ever, utterly unaffected by this rare honour. However it is our responsibility to institutionalize the life of this amazing personality as an enduring source of inspiration for generations to come.

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