Thursday, May 31, 2012

Famous and forgotten.

She died of tuberculosis at 39, after suffering two failed marriages and a humiliating episode of sudden poverty that reduced her to a beggar for a brief while.

The tragic woman you just read about was named ‘Mercedes Adrienne Manuela Ramona Jellinek’ by her folks. Doesn’t her name ring a bell? Yes, you guessed it right. The most desirable car on the planet owes its name to her.

The story goes that her dad once told Daimler-Benz that if they named their vehicles after his daughter and if he were made the sole distributor for America and parts of Europe, he’d order 36 cars from them. To put the number in perspective, Germany produced just 900 cars in 1901. So 36 must have been a huge order then. Smelling the prospect of riches, Daimler-Benz acceded to Emil Jellinek’s diktats. And that’s how Mercedes, the little girl with a penurious future, became a luxury car.

Bisleri is another sparkling example of an eponymous brand (named after real people). Originally a product of Felice Bisleri & Co, the renowned mineral water was bought over in 1969, by Parle Products. For those who like a bit of back story, Felice Bisleri was a pharmacist cum liqueur maker cum fervent supporter of Garibaldi with a penchant for concocting aperitifs. The next time you glug down some H2o from your PET bottle, don’t forget to remember this Italian.

The formidable Ayurvedic doctor of Jamnagar - Karuna Shankar Bhatt - suffered a similar fate after he passed away in 1897. A thick mist of anonymity has cloaked his accomplishments ever since and the only thing that’s remembered of him today is his nickname ‘Zandu’ (haanji, that balm)!

One more man about whom we know precious little is Mr. Vadilal of Vadilal’s. Google tells us that Vadilal Gandhi was the great grandfather of the current owners of India’s leading ice cream company. It seems his entrepreneurial spirit drove him to set up a soda fountain in 1907. And that scoop of risk-taking paved the path for the lip smacking firm we know. Hopefully someday all of these people will get their fair slice of the limelight again.