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The French Connection

It wasn’t the sort of party at which guests are left to themselves  and to the abounding waiters bearing gleaming trays of drinks and snacks. It was a personalised party with the Consul General of France, Yves Charpentier, receiving guests at the entrance and mingling with all the invitees. The occasion was the conferment of the distinguished L’Ordre National du Mérite on Nadir Godrej, Managing Director, Godrej Industries Ltd., by the French Ambassador, H. E. Bernard de Montferrand, who had graciously come down from Delhi to make the presentation.

The Ambassador spoke glowingly of the contribution of Godrej to industry in India. He laid particular emphasis on the Godrej belief that a happy worker is a good worker. He thanked Nadir for bringing France to India, continuing the tradition founded by his uncle, Sohrab Godrej, who, incidentally, had won the same National Order of Merit earlier. In passing, the Ambassador referred to Nadir as “the family versifier”, which was the cue for Nadir to take out a piece of paper from his pocket and start reciting what was to become the party’s highlight:

L’Ordre National du Mérite
by Nadir Godrej
17th October 2002

I found it hard to believe,
When I was told by our friend Yves,
That I would soon get an award.
But nevertheless I was awed.
I thought to myself, “What a chance
To strengthen ties with my dear France.”
Though others may deserve this more,
France is a land that I adore.
I’m not the first to set eyes on France
And fall in love, right at first glance.
Where on the planet could you see
A city that vies with Paris?
The culture, art and bonhomie,
The cheese, the wine, gastronomy,
The lovely language, spoken and written,
All could explain why I’m so smitten.

But all the same, I also see
Some reasons in the family tree.
My father’s uncle Manchershah,
Whose partner’s son is Remu Shah,
Lived for years and years in Paris,
And dealt in auto parts and jewellery.
When he retired he lived with us
And taught our parrot how to cuss.
Though I of course was very young,
Who knows, perhaps I was first stung
Then, by the bug of love of France?
Could it have been Sohrab perchance?
He was Francophone and Francophile.
He had his own panache and style,
Was president of the Alliance
And decorated twice by France.

His absence is the only cloud.
Today, I know, he would be proud.
All who knew him, do miss him much.
He always had a special touch.
And now a word for the Alliance,
Which is a constant link to France.
Rati and I both studied there.
And so I think it’s only fair
To thank them for all they have done.
With Patrick, I think, we’ve really won.
The Alliance now has reached new heights,
With Keo, space is in our sights.

I’m deeply grateful to Bernard,
Who is a diplomatic star,
For kindly coming all the way,
From the capital to Bombay,
Just to present me this award.
With all our hearts let us applaud.
To Yves, of course, thanks are due
And to the Taj for the venue.
With thanks to you, my dear friends,
Finally my poem ends.