CAMBRIDGE University has given Dr. Yusuf Hamied much happiness since he arrived at Christ’s College as an undergraduate aged 18 in 1954. In 1960, he returned to Bombay (now Mumbai) with a PhD, started on the shop floor at Cipla, the pharma company established by his father, and eventually became its chairman.
Over the years he has been a generous benefactor to Christ’s and the university, which is changing beyond recognition with a huge new science campus and township in north-west Cam-bridge. Here, there are now mega-buildings where “the close proximity of the disciplines of physics, astronomy, chemistry, materials science, earth science, engineering, mathematics, and computing will strengthen existing collaborations and foster new types of interdisciplinary research”.
To all suggested collaborations he is invited to fund, Yusuf has the same questions, firstly about “implementation”, and then, about “how will this help India?”
Last weekend Yusuf drove to Cambridge from London. The morning began with Professor Jane Stapleton, the first woman Master of Christ’s in over 500 years, showing Yusuf “Hamied Hall” for post graduate students. This adds to “Hamied House” and “Hamied Lodge” – not forgetting the “Yusuf Hamied Centre”, inside the college where he had a room 63 years ago.
He had lunch nearby at a familiar spot, the Varsity Restaurant. Staff brought out a framed photograph of Rajiv Gandhi, late prime minister of India, with his Italian wife to be, Sonia Maino, at the restaurant, where they had first met.
Yusuf says Christian von Stieglitz, “who was at Christ’s”, is said to have pointed Sonia out to Rajiv and murmured encouragingly: “Isn’t she a pretty girl?”
Sonia Gandhi is now president of the Congress Party and alleged-ly grooming her son, Rahul, to be a future prime minister of India.