Sudhir Mulji led a wonderfully varied life as a businessman, economist, academic, journalist, sportsman, a Wiltshire country gent, father of four and member by marriage of the extensive Guinness clan. In his last week he was, first, father of the bride at the wedding of his younger daughter, Gopali, at his wife Rosaleen's family home, Biddesden (with all its Bloomsbury Group associations); and then part of the celebrations when his friend Manmohan Singh, the 14th prime minister of India, received an honorary degree at Oxford.
Born in Bombay in 1938, Mulji was sent by his anglophile father to be educated in England, first at prep school and then at Charterhouse. He read PPE at Christ Church, Oxford, where his economics tutors were Sir Roy Harrod and Maurice Scott. He returned to India in 1960 an eager polo player (despite the serious handicap of being left-handed), an avid bridge player (and reader of books on the subject), a bon vivant interested in food and wine and an already gracious host. But above all Mulji was a young man with a keen curiosity and a lively and inquiring mind " so much so that this young graduate was chosen by Sachin Chaudhuri, founder editor of the Economic Weekly (now Economic and Political Weekly) as his assistant editor. (Mulji later named his first son after him.)
During this time, Mulji was also secretary of the Maharashtra wing of the Swatantra Party. Founded in 1959, the party opposed the democratic socialism of the Congress Party by advocating liberal, market-friendly views. From 1962 to 1970 Mulji was manager of Great Eastern Shipping, a company with which he had a family connection, becoming joint managing director in 1974-79, CEO of Great Eastern London, 1980-85, and deputy chairman from 1992.
In 1965 Mulji married his fellow Oxford undergraduate the vivacious Rosaleen Guinness, daughter of the second Lord Moyne, who as the writer Bryan Guinness was a close friend and neighbour of Carrington, the painter, and Lytton Strachey, when they lived at Ham Spray. (Carrington did some decorations at Biddesden, including a remarkable trompe l'oeil painted window, and Strachey's letters also contain memorable descriptions of visits to the Guinnesses' Dublin house, Knockmaroon.)
Mulji spent a year back at Oxford in 1970, at Nuffield College, where I remember him vividly as a warm and urbane member of the college, ready to talk about every subject under the Oxford sun, unlike some of our single- minded peers. Even so, he took a very active part in the intellectually effervescent discussions of development economics being led by Ian Little, Jim Mirrlees and Maurice Scott. This experience touched Mulji profoundly, and from then on both Oxford and economics vied for his attention with his shipping and entrepreneurial interests. Nuffield elected him a Visiting Fellow from 1979 to 1988, and he became an Honorary Fellow of the college in 1998.
He and Rosaleen moved from Bombay to Delhi at the beginning of the 1970s, to a house at Malcha Marg in Chanakyapuri that not only accommodated their growing family, but allowed them to host many visiting …