The peaceful death of a couple of persons recently made the headlines because of their contributions to Madras/Tamil Nadu.
Professor Susumu Ohno passed away in Tokyo in mid-July aged 89. For 30 years, he had worked on finding in Tamil the origins of Japanese. He was not the first Japanese scholar to propound this theory, but he was its loudest voice. He felt that Tamil maritime contacts with Japan between 300 B.C.E and 300 C.E. considerably influenced what had been a Polynesian-based Japanese. Once this linguistics professor of Gakushuin University of Tokyo was convinced of the connection, he spent many years on finding the similarities in Japanese and Tamil pottery, rituals and customs.
On September 7 this year, Ashok Leyland will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding as Ashok Motors. One who would not have made it to the celebrations, given his age, but who had been eagerly looking forward to hearing about them will no longer have the chance. The 94-year-old Lord Stokes passed away in the U.K. on July 21. It was Donald Stokes, as Director and General Sales and Service Manager of Leyland Motors, who was mainly responsible for forging the link that made Ashok Motors, assemblers of Austin cars and trucks, Ashok Leyland in July 1955 and thereafter, as a Director of the Company, helped it grow.
When Leyland Motors, U.K., was expanding after the War and was seeking to set up manufacturing facilities outside the country, several countries were looked at. Eventually, it boiled down to a choice between Brazil and India. Stokes pitched for India “because they speak English there and we have no Portuguese speakers.”
Once Ashok Leyland got underway, many at Leyland Motors felt that it got more than its fair share of help because “it’s Stokes’ pet!” Stokes, who went on to head the giant British Leyland, which had been formed with the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Corporation, had played a major role in Leyland Motors’ spectacular growth after the War, earning for himself the reputation of being “the best salesman in the U.K.”
His PR is also remembered in Madras; whenever he walked around the factory, he’d namaste to every worker he passed, and if he had to wait for his vehicle, he’d be chatting up the watchman or the doorkeeper. As Chairman, however, he saw the downslide of British Leyland, but he had retired by the time it came to the point of winding upoperations. The company whose growth he had encouraged in Madras, however, thrives and is beginning to think as globally as Leyland Motors once did.
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