[Book Review] – “Mind without Fear” by Rajat Gupta
“Everything ends in a Book” – Malarme, the French symbolic poet
The cover of the Book, published by an Indian publisher ( and mentioning “For sale in Indian sub-continent only) – both are suggestive. The cover is not clear – whether the book title is “Rajat Gupta” or “Mind without Fear) for “Rajat Gupta” is written in typesize 32 and “Mind without Fear” is written in a type-size of 14.
To my knowledge, this is Mr. Gupta’s first book and he may not have written this, at least in this form, unless what happened in last seven years. He made it also clear that the book is “to tell his side of story” that he did not tell by testifying in the trial, to his great regret.
The book draws heavily from two works as reference and chapter quotes in the beginning – Rabindranath Tagore and the Bhagavad-Gita.
I am not after facts in this review. I am not interested to judge whether he was “guilty” or “innocent”. I am trying to document what crossed my mind as a reader (and with some additional readings done on this as the case fascinated seven years back). In the standard magisterial and school-teacher way of reviewing books, very common in India, where the reviewer tries to show how suave he is or teaches the lazy readers by providing a summary as tutors prepare students with “notes”. I shall do neither. I remain answerable to the autonomy of a reader.
McKinsey made Mr. Gupta (what he is as per his own admission) but in the most critical phase of his life when he was down, they “kicked him” and violated “partnership values.”. This sounds like those old Communists whom the regime/party ignored and even persecuted but they could not de-affiliate themselves. In Calcutta, such men are many but I have never heard any word against the party. Such men are dangerous for they allow an institution to become hollow inside, values betrayed and eventually exploited by less devout men. Mr. Gupta’s relation with McKinsey is at the same emotional level as a communist has with his party or a devout has with his parish community. In short, Mckinsey was a religion to Mr. Gupta and its work not mere business but a calling. He entered as an adept and eventually became the High Priest. McKinsey was the larger family for the Orphan when he entered while he was 24 years old.
II. “Three Generations of Amazing Women in my life Life” – his mother, wife and daughters and their children
I did come to know from the book that Mr. Gupta’s mother was of Punjabi origin (there are many photographs in the book) and that explains one thing : his looks, his regal face and a handsomeness that an old lady of my acquaintance in Calcutta told me of “better than Gregory Peck.” This also explains his fighting spirit that is rare.
His wife, Ms. Anita Gupta his batch-mate in IIT-Delhi (a single girl in the batch of 250 in those days) appears to be a better judge of men and situations and she was spot on – “these finance guys are not our people.”
Mr. Gupta’s greatest heroism, to me appears not his philanthropy or institution-building, his exercises in “karma-yoga” but being a Leader of the Family. A Punjabi fighter from his mother’s side and a tender family head from the classic Bengali gentleman.
III. Amerika (not a typo)
Mr. Gupta claims that he has seen the underbelly of the American justice system – this time not as a consultant but as a convict. He has also seen the upper echelons of America which even billionaires of India (and other countries) can or in other words, will be allowed to. The true elite of any country / culture have to be conservative in social mixing unless of course they degenerate completely. Or become poverty-stricken.
In a democracy (and America is purportedly a democracy), a man must build his career not by birth or privilege but by his own deeds. Mr. Gupta is one of the greatest beneficiaries of that ethos. However, these deeds can and does include building a career by destroying that of another. Rudy Giuliani “built his career” by going after the Mafia and eventually becoming Mayor of New York – Mr. Bharara did the same, nothing more, nothing less.
In hind-sight, Mr. Gupta does not tell it but in his way to rise in McKinsey, he also “destroyed” careers of older men – the old “Mustache Petes” as younger Mafia leaders talked of the old conservatives. These were not public events but it is impossible to believe that Mr. Gupta rose to the top and coveted post of McKinsey without destroying many careers and leaving a trail of hope-dashed hopeful contenders for the top post. This is the Law of Nature.
IV. The Epic and its side note – The Bhagavad-Gita
The Bhagavad-Gita, compared to the size and span of the epic (of which this is a part) is a footnote in size. But in intensity, it is infinitely more powerful that the whole. Read while the full canvass of the epic in the background and when we observe the career of Arjuna – we find as if the cosmos is conspiring to make him the greatest warrior of his time and generation. The Universe was eliminating all his worthy opponents (Ekalabya and Karna), he was granted everything a professional can aspire for – wealth, adulation, fame, women, mentor, friends and the conspiracy of the Universe is palpable – especially in eliminating Karna in a manner not highly moral. Arjuna the Great’s character is linear – work hard, do great jobs and universe like a hand-maiden will praise you and admire you. However, his mentor and charioteer was hinting all through that he was the “chosen one” and the in the choice, he had no part whatsoever. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says : “I am the Great Time and presently will destroy all these great military commanders of the Kurus and Pandavas” – he showed Arjuna graphically as how in that Great Time’s all consuming form, warrior were dangling from the teeth that was devouring everything.
After the war, when Arjuna was at the verge of retirement, when no great wars are to be fought, no great achievements left, Arjuna became restless. He was defeated by unknown men – he was still not getting the message – we went on. His mentor retired and was instrumental in decimating his clan – the Yadus in a fratricidal war that will eliminate to the clan to the last men. And as a final humiliation, he was defeated by a group of petty thugs while he was entrusted with the protection of Yadav women. The Great Warrior’s humiliation was complete.
One of the most-ingenious and hidden wisdom of the Gita, as I read it (and in its infinite plasticity, anything can be read there), for noble and exceptional man (which Mr Gupta was, is and will be) – one must be alert to understand that the Gift and the Punishment are inter-wined. the bearer of exceptional talent and fortune also brings the mandate of sudden and foreclosure in an unknown time.
V. Legacy of the Book
The prose of the book is very readable, crisp and although does not have great literary quality, it reflects the personality of Mr. Gupta. It is for the readers to judge – of now and of the future as within a decade or so, many actors will leave the stage and posterity will not feel the intensity of the event / drama as we felt being in that time but something else – human vulnerability and human capacity.
I would also like that Mr. Gupta may choose not to be dragged into “career rehabilitation” as many of his Indian admirers are already at work with all the good intentions. Considering his character traits, heard first time from him (and also from the remarkable lady, his companion in the Business of Life as girl-friend, wife and counselor for some fifty years, Mrs Anita Gupta), the friends from his “homeland” will deny him an opportunity to be “with the self” and if matter goes worse, he will be dragged into Rerum Malicia Indicorum about which he has no idea for being living outside its ambit and gravitation for a long time.
To emphasize that this is not my personal suspicion or some misgivings (borne of living in India) arising from some personal issue, but a palpable one and here I give it, direct from another famous son’s of Calcutta, like you, of another era – Nirad C Chaudhuri’s admonition to the greatest Bengali who ever lived and whose works shine in many pages of Mr. Gupta’s greatest work so far – Rabindranath Tagore – this book,partly written in a prison and shorn of all the trappings :
“অযোগ্য স্বজাতির প্রতি অহেতুকী মোহ”
(The irrational attachment to one’s un-qualified countrymen)
Thank you, Mr. Gupta for telling us your side of story.
Men will come and go but written words will remain – this is the Testimony delayed but it came.
Such a testimony for such an exceptional man like you will be judged in a Higher Court to which we mortals have no access.
To the karma-yogi, I remind the most powerful redeeming promise from the Lord which comes almost at the end when Arjuna the Great was saying “No, I can’t do that, this is too difficult…” “oh no… my mind is so wild -how I can meditate” and so on….
“সর্বধর্মান পরিত্যাজ্য মামেকং শরণং ব্রজ
অহং ত্বাং সর্বপাপেভ্য মোক্ষয়িস্যামি মা শুচ:”
(“Give up all duties and obligations and surrender unto Me. I shall redeem you from all sins, do not lament” )