Legal Luminaries

Harish Salve

In a world where exploring and charting new courses seem to be the call, Harish Salve holds a very different opinion. His philosophy is “Stay the course.” Mentored by none other than Nani Palkhivala, he says, “Give it your best and be your harshest critic. Competing with myself is the best way to do better, is another lesson in life that I learnt from him.” Harish is quick to claim that he is no great moralist. Yet, he believes, it is sensible to be honest.

“Another person who deeply influenced my personal life was my mother,” says Harish, giving the lady due credit. The reason for this influence on Harish lies in her being selfless. Although she was a doctor, she gave up her practice when she was in her 50s and went into spirituality. Being a total people’s person, she oriented her world around charitable work. Although afflicted with cancer, her zeal for life never left her. “She epitomized the fact that kind, selfless gesture is never wasted,” is what Harish says, remembering her.

While Harish’s mother influenced his soul, his mind was swayed by his father’s feats. Narendra Kumar Salve, who is better known as N.K.P. Salve, was a veteran Indian politician from the Indian National Congress, a highly respected parliamentarian and an authoritative cricket administrator. “Guided by my father’s practice, which was mostly taxation, I too took up Chartered Accountancy,” says Harish. “Yet, by the time I finished CA I knew it was not for me,” explains Harish. Of Course, this change of heart did not meet his father’s approval as he was banking upon Harish to build on his work.

So what was it that brought about this change in thought? By his own admittance, “I was influenced by my friend’s father, the legal luminary, justice Arvind Bhogle, and thus dreamed of becoming a lawyer myself.” And to say the least, he has done rather well as a lawyer, having been appointed as the youngest Solicitor General of India at the age of 43. And yet during his younger days, he was lured into pursuing CA! “It was all for the Rs. 50 which my father gave me as pocket money,” laughs Harish.

Harish’s father would have rather seen him turn to politics than law—something that Harish himself could never take to. As per Harish, “My mother found too many shades of grey in politics.” Perhaps it was his deep attachment to his mother that kept him from politics. While Harish did not want to explore his options professionally, when it came to his marriage he was quite open to the idea of not only an inter-regional but an inter-religious marriage.

Himself a baptized protestant, he went in for an arranged marriage with Meenakshi, a Hindu. Incidentally she was also the great-granddaughter of Mahatma Hansraj, the well-known Arya Samaji educationist. He remembers the day after he got engaged, and had to go for a dinner, when Meenakshi said, “You are already leaving me and going.” Respecting his wife’s sentiments, from that day he never again left her and went for dinner. Today, they are the best of friends.

Meenakshi is an artist who primarily enjoys working in stained glass. “Of course, these days her bigger task is running my office including my accounts,” reports Harish. But then, the house and the office are not the only jobs that Meenakshi has to handle. A pair of Rottweilers—the most pampered children in their house—also take a major portion of her time.

The couple has two daughters, Sakshi and Saaniya. While elder daughter, sakshi, on completing her BBA from UK, chose to become a patisserie chef and is training with Le Cordon Blew, the younger, Saaniya, realizes that her passion lies in languages. “We as a family believe one must chase one’s dreams,” says Harish. Saaniya too had initially studied Biology before taking up languages such as Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese.

Awarded the Padma Bhushan for Public Affairs, Harish has been passionate about all things that he chooses to pursue in life. Whether in his hobbies such as music, which stretches to all forms from the classical to the popular variety, or his dogs, or even his family, his dedication is the same.

It is his dedication which has kept the family closely knit. For a man who is both stoical and strict, he has surely made a few allowances as, in his own words, he points out, “The three women in my life boss me around all the time!”


We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001. sales@ubtlawbooks.com

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