Katherine Mayo, Cornelia Sorabji and Mother India

“White men are saving the brown women from brown men”

-Gayatri Spivak

Katherine Mayo was American journalist, who visited Philippines and wrote book called “Isles of Fear”. She justified American rule over Philippines as she felt that that will protect poor from elites. British were impressed with her talent. Katherine was against Catholics, blacks and Asians. She believed in supremacy of whites.

British were worried about freedom movement in India and support for Indian independence in US. They needed someone who would influence Americans and make them believe that India needed British rule for generation to come.

“The widow becomes the menial of every other person in the house of her late husband. All the hardest and ugliest tasks are hers, no comforts, no ease. She may take but one meal a day and that of the meanest. She must perform strict fasts. Her hair must be shaven off. She must take care to absent herself from any scene of ceremony or rejoicing, from a marriage, from a religious celebration, from the sight of an expectant mother or of any person whom the curse of her glance might harm.”

-Katherine Mayo , Mother India

They decided to hire services of Katherine Mayo. She was assured all help by government officials in India. She visited India and traveled from “North west Frontier to Madras.” Based on interviews with Indians and “scientific evidences” like government reports on health and economy, she came to conclusion that Indian were not fit to rule, they needed British to modernize India.

“The British administration of India, be it good, bad, or indifferent, has nothing whatever to do with the conditions above indicated. Inertia, helplessness, lack of initiative and originality, lack of staying power and of sustained loyalties, sterility of enthusiasm, weakness of life-vigor itself–all are traits that truly characterize the Indian not only of today, but of long-past history.”

-Katharine Mayo, Mother India

She wrote her observations in book called “Mother India”. British and conservative section of America feel in love with her book and it was a tremendous success in west.

Katherine had poor opinion about Hindu religion and given her shallow knowledge about Indian culture and religion she wrote what her sponsors wanted to write.

Her book starts in city of Kolkata, describing poverty and sacrifice of goat at Kali temple. In India she saw and met only Hindus and finally blames them for backwardness, poor treatment of women and dalits and poverty. Exploitation of India by British is nothing but a myth according to her.

“Marriage expenses and funeral expenses, love of litigation, thriftlessness and crop failures are among the chief roads that lead the Indian into debt. The Indian money-lender, or bania, is the same man as the usurer of the Philippines. And, exactly as in the Philippines, the average Indian having a little money laid by, even though he be not a bania by caste and calling, will, if he be minded to lend, lend to his neighbors at 33 per cent, and up, rather than to Government at a miserable 3.5 per cent, so that Government may build him a railway. Let the silly folk in London do that.”

-Katherine Mayo, Mother India

As Gayatri Spivak says it was usual story of white men saving the brown women from brown men.

Gandhi called her “drain inspector” and dismissed her findings.

“This book is cleverly and powerfully written. The carefully chosen quotations give it the false appearance of a truthful book. But the impression it leaves on my mind is that it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to be reported upon, or to give a graphic description of the stench exuded by the opened drains. If Miss Mayo had confessed that she had come to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she declared her abominable and patently wrong conclusion with a certain amount of triumph: ‘the drains are India’.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

While Katherine was critical of Hindus and their attitude towards women and Dalits, she ignored attitude of Americans towards women and blacks, it was not very different from what she was accusing Hindus of.

Katherine felt that freedom to black will result in sexual assault on white women.

“As you are aware, I know a good deal about Orthodox Hindus, and have met the genuine Hindu Holy Man.  You are not that, are you? You are not a Saint, Mr. Gandhi. You and I are lawyers.”

-Cornelia Sorabji in interview with Gandhi

In her research she got help and support from Indian lawyer Cornelia Sorabji. Cornelia Sorabji was first woman from India to become lawyer. She was year older than Katherine. Both had similar views on Hindu women, Dalits and Gandhi. But difference was Cornelia had genuine concern for women while for Katherine it was sponsored project.

 “At this moment I caught sight of Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the Untouchables. “What have you done for Dr. Ambedkar’s community?” I asked.

“I have an outcaste girl at my Ashrame.  You will see her when you come to Allahabad.”

“What is that? The missionaries take hundreds of thousands of outcastes under their protection, clothe and educate them, and fit them to stand on their feet.  Besides, you are an outcaste yourself now.  What credit can be claimed by an outcaste for adopting an outcaste child?

-Cornelia Sorabji in interview with Gandhi

Cornelia too felt that British rule was beneficial for India, she was against Gandhian method because she felt that his non-cooperation movement resulted in people becoming jobless, students boycotting schools and overall law and order problem. As a lawyer she believed that self-rule was possible through constitutional methods.

“He condemns Great Britain because education does not travel faster and farther, and he incites schoolboys to leave their studies and inflames them so that they burn down their schools.  He teaches defiance of law and order, although he knows that it will not be many months before Indians themselves, and not the British, will be responsible for maintaining law and order in India.”

-Cornelia Sorabji on Gandhi

As lawyer she wanted to improve condition of women and Dalits. But she did not get good work, she was forced to work for Maharajas and their queens.

Her biographer (and her nephew) Richard Sorabji in his book “Opening Doors”called her friendship with Katherine as “big mistake”.

When Mother India got published in 1927, there was lot of protest in India, and since Cornelia was seen as collaborator, other lawyers became hostile. Cornelia retired from High Court in 1929 and settled in London.


Jaguar, Caiman and Capybara

Jaguars are third largest cats (after lion and tiger). They are apex predator of Amazon forests. They hunt large number of animal species of the forest.

Most hunted are caiman. jaguars are good swimmers and can hunt caiman in water. Their powerful bite can disable caiman and jaguars are powerful enough to drag them on land.

But caiman is not their favourite meal, they prefer capybaras.

Compared to caiman, capybara is less hunted by jaguars, though they like capybara more than caiman.

Reason for this is capybara move in groups. Whenever they spot jaguar they warn others and all run for safety making it difficult for jaguar to catch them. They face similar problem with giant otters. Giant otters too move in groups and have warning system in place.

Caiman on the other hand are solitary and never developed any warning system. This makes them easier to hunt.

Mohed Altrad and Syrian Refugees

“Mohed Altrad isn’t the winner, France is – this wonderful country that I respect so much,” 

-Mohed Altrad

For last two years we are seeing images of Syrian refugees leaving Syria to escape terror and moving to countries in Europe. Some in Europe welcomed them, but many hate them. They feel that accepting refugees may result in rise in terrorism and refugees are seen more of a liability than assets.

Are refugees really a liability?

“It’s far from being paradise to be an immigrant in France,”

-Mohed Altrad

In 1969, a Syrian called Mohed Altrad came to France on scholarship. Altrad was born in Syria, he lost his mother soon after his birth and his father was not ready to look after him. He sent him to his grandmother. Grandmother was ready to look after him, but she did not want him to attend school, as she felt education was waste of time and he could be more productive looking after goats and sheep.

He was later adopted by a relative of his, who allowed him to attend school. Altard did well and won scholarship to continue education in France. He managed to get PhD. After working for few years, he started IT company of his own and sold it for a profit.

“You have to prove your­self several times more than ordinary businessmen.To be honest, Arabs in France don’t succeed.”

Mohed Altrad

He later brought a bankrupt scaffolding company, with his efforts he brought turnaround. After series of takeover today it a multi billion group- Altrad Group.

But even today, despite being a billionaire, Altrad still faces discrimination. Altrad is a good example of how a refugee can make difference to economy and society.


Otara Gunawardene, ODEL and Embark

In 1977 Sri Lanka opened its economy ( India did in 1991). This resulted in starting of  lots of garment manufacturing factories in Lanka. This also resulted in surplus products.

Otara  Del Gunawardene was biology graduate who also worked as model. In order to supplement modelling income, she came up with idea of selling surplus garments. She stared her business by selling products from boot of her car. Later she opened a small store and named it ODEL ( it is combination of her two names- Otara and Del). Her business did well and soon ODEL had chain of stores. In one of her interviews Otara said that many Indians used to visit her stores esp. before liberalization of Indian economy.

“Many Indians would tell me they made trips to Sri Lanka just so they could shop at Odel. This was before India’s retail boom, but they continued coming even after that. It was flattering,” 

-Otara Gunawardene in The Hindu

Otara is dog lover, she sold ODEL to Softlogic, and is now concentrating on welfare of dogs. She has started company called Embark to sell dog related products. Profits of Embark are used for welfare of street dogs.

“Dogs are like children,”

-Otara Gunawardene

Cha Chaan Teng, Tsui Wah, Fairwood and Café de Coral

“Sometimes we think we know everything because we are at the management grade, but in fact that is not the case…Hard work is a must, no matter how large or how small your business is.”

-Lee Yuen-hong

Cha Chaan Teng is a restaurant that was started to serve local people Chinese and Western food at cheap rates. This gave people an alternative to expensive restaurants serving Western food. Similar to Udupi chain of restaurants  in Mumbai.

Cha Chaan Teng become very popular in Hong Kong.

Victor Lo Tang Seong belonged to poor family in China. He came to Hong Kong for education and got trained a mechanic to repair US fighter planes. He later joined his brother’s soya beans products company. He started a Cha Chaan Teng restaurant and called it Café de Coral. Over time it became chain of restaurants. Today Café de Coral has 450+ outlets with 17000 employees.

Victor died last year at the age of 101 years.

Victor’s brother Lo Fong Seong founded his own chain of restaurants called as Fairwood.

Like Victor, Lee Yuen- hong belonged to poor family. He worked as a delivery boy at a Cha Chaan Teng. But due to his hard work and tenacity he became head chef and then owner of Tsui Wah chain of restaurants. He brought innovations like central kitchens to standardize food quality and a fully computerized ordering system at all outlets.

“Unlike running hotels or other Chinese restaurants, there isn’t any book that will teach you how to operate Cha Chaan Teng in a successful way,”

-Lee Yuen-hong

Tsui Wah faces stiff competition from Fairwood and Café de Coral esp. in terms of prices, but Lee has refused to cut on prices and compromise on quality.




Jimmy Lai, Umbrella Revolution, Giordano

“The owner of the city’s biggest pro-democracy publishing empire, Mr. Lai has seen his house firebombed and his company’s offices ransacked; he has been the target of an assassination plot and, recently, of multiple online attacks by what he suspects were state-sponsored hackers. On Sunday night, unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the entrances to his home and his company’s offices.”

-The New York Times

Jimmy Lai is an interesting character. Born in China to a wealthy family, he lost everything when communists took over China, he dropped out of school after 5th standard.

He then went to Hong Kong by hiding in a ship and at age of 13 started working as child labour in garment factory in Hong Kong. Through hard work and money earned through stock market, he purchased a cloth manufacturing company. He later started a cloth retail chain Giordano.

From cloth retail he moved into media and today owns newspaper Apple Daily and magazine Next Magazine.

“We were standing there, and we saw people rush into the road and occupy it, and in that moment, I said, ‘Oh my God, this is wonderful,’ …That was the beginning.”

-Jimmy Lai on Occupy Central or Umbrella Revolution

Jimmy Lai hated dictatorship of communist party of China. He protested against suppression of democracy in mainland China. He is critical of communist party. He protested against suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and became part of Umbrella Revolution, so called because protestors used umbrella to defend themselves from Hong Kong police.

“I don’t think I should ask my kids to inherit my business, because they can’t start where I did..I was from the street. I’m a very different make of person. I’ve been a fighter all my life.”

-Jimmy Lai

But some like Michael Tien feel that Jimmy uses protests to sell his newspaper.

“He makes the money, and he uses the money to support the anti-establishment movement, and that creates more noise, and sells more papers. That’s the game he’s playing,”

-Michael Tien

Michael like Jimmy owns a cloth retail chain G2000. Michael’s father left China to start jeans manufacturing unit in Hong Kong. The unit later transformed into retail chain.

Michael, unlike Jimmy, has good relations with communist party of China and is active in politics.

Corazon Dayro Ong, Baon, CDO Foodsphere

“Women are more approachable. My employees can relate their problems to me, both personal and work-related.”

-Corazon Ong

Corazon Ong an alumna of FEU Institute of Education (she graduated in 1964) with the degree in Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition, was preparing baon ( food  for school tiffin) for her children, her recipes were appreciated by her  friends  and relatives. Encouraged by this response she decided to sell her dishes, she started her venture with two helpers and with her backyard as factory.

“It was really like a ‘mom and pop’ business before…I was in the kitchen cooking, buying the ingredients, and doing all the mixing myself.”

-Corazon Ong

Initially she started selling longanizas and tocino, her specialty was siopao with longanizas fillings. All her products were well received. Encouraged by response she took loan from bank and started her own company called CDO Foodsphere.

Initially she stared selling longaniza and tocino. Later she expanded her profile by adding tapa, cheesedogs, bacon, chorizo, ham, sausages etc.

“I want to make more products that are affordable and can be found on every Filipino table. I want to continue to innovate.”

-Corazon Ong

She also brought innovation like corned tuna in market and introduced corned beef- carne norte.

“Love your work, Enjoy what you are doing. Focus on your project and be involved – be hands on. Have perseverance and dedication.”

-Corazon on secrets of success

From a dietitian who started company with two helpers, Corazon today is entrepreneur employing 3000+ people.