Meera Sanyal, banker by profession and liberal by conviction passed away on January 11 following an unsuccessful struggle with a terminal illness. She entered her 58th birthday in October last year – retirement age in several offices – she took permanent retirement leaving a void in the world of banking and the liberal fraternity.
My first encounter with Meera was when I came across her posters put up in South Mumbai during her campaign as an independent contesting the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The posters had the visage of this smiling elegant lady, looking completely at ease with herself and I wondered, at that time, how she would fit into the big bad world of politics.
While she lost this initial attempt at electoral politics, she caught the attention of Mr. S. V. Raju, editor of Freedom First and President of the Indian Liberal Group (ILG). He invited her to talk at a seminar where ILG gave platform to the few independents who had contested and lost. She too was enamoured by Mr. Raju’s commitment to the liberal cause and immediately enrolled with the ILG.
In those early days, Meera would visit ILG office at least once a month, taking time off from her busy schedule as the chief of a multinational bank, to learn more about party politics from Mr. Raju’s experiences with the Swatantra Party. She wrote several articles for Freedom First on economic and social issues.
Meera’s pet subject and where she contributed much was the bank’s micro-finance programme to help women in the rural areas. In 2008, she was awarded the Karmaveer Puraskaar, a national people’s award instituted by iCongo, a countrywide confederation of NGOs for her work in social development.
After three decades in the banking profession where she held senior positions in multinational banks, she stepped down to enter public life and concentrate on causes dear to her heart. Besides her vision of clean politics and good governance, Meera was concerned about the environment and ecology and sounded so happy and proud when she talked to me about her success in the campaign to remove the coal heaped at Mumbai’s Haji Bunder which had become a pollution hazard.
Meera was the Chairperson of the Urban Development Committee of Indian Merchants’ Chamber and Founder Member of APLI-Mumbai (A PortLands Initiative). The daughter of late Vice Admiral G. M. Hiranandani, Meera spent her early years in a home overlooking the beautiful Mumbai harbour. It was thus in her genes to start the movement for redeveloping the unused Portland areas, a step towards rejuvenating and revitalizing the city. Her efforts have borne fruit. The Mumbai Port Trust has included the valuable inputs of APLI-Mumbai and issued a gazette notification for a draft planning proposal to regenerate the Portlands.
Many may not be aware that Meera was fluent in several Indian and foreign languages. Her connect with people of higher ranks and the general public with ease and aplomb could have stemmed from her fluency in these languages.
Freedom First offers its heartfelt condolences to her husband Ashish and other family members. May her soul rest in eternal peace!