Rajat Gupta was born in a middle class Indian family and went on to make it to the millionaires list in the El Dorado called America. He lost his parents when he was a teenager. But he was fortunate enough to get support for studying at the IIT, Delhi and later at the Harvard Business School. He went on to become the managing director of McKinsey & Co in 1994. He was capable and ability is always appreciated and promoted in the private sector – at least in a country like America. (In India, ability is usually kicked down so that political manipulators can rise in the hierarchy of power. Or the ability will be manipulated for the same purpose, thereby killing the creativity of the individual possessing the ability!)
Rajat Gupta could not only raise his company to great heights but also earn a great reputation for the company in philanthropic work.
Philanthropy can be a mask, especially in the world of capitalism. All your deception can be concealed behind a few well-advertised acts of charity. Mr Gupta cultivated the image of “a sage and a saint” in the management world. [The quoted phrase is taken from C P Chandrasekhar’s column in the latest issue of the Frontline.]
It didn’t take much time for the mask to be unravelled. Today, Mr Gupta stands convicted of malpractices.
Why would Mr Gupta who had so much wealth and success to boast of indulge in malpractices? Is it mere greed for more wealth? Or is it a desire for power? Chandrasekhar’s article says that Mr Gupta was “one of India’s non-resident icons… He walked with ease in and out of India’s corridors of power and its corporate circles….”
Probably that power went to his head. Power is a highly intoxicating thing. It intoxicates far more addictively than alcohol or drugs. While alcohol and drugs have a limit (the extreme being one’s own end), power has no limits. Power can aspire to the realms of the divine. Power can make you a god on the earth. [Look at the semi-literate MLA of your constituency or the neighbouring one to understand this better.]
I have seen people giving up everything except wealth to rise in power. They give up all values and principles, and even relationships. They do not even realise that they are making fools of themselves in front of other people when they preach what is diametrically opposed to what they do in their quest for power. People are not fools though they may be mediocre and may even fail to secure an average score on an IQ test!
Saints are people who want power. In fact they want the highest form of power. They want to control people with infinite and divine power. Was Rajat Gupta aspiring for that kind of power?
What would he have gained with that kind of power?
Why did he defeat himself with the kind of deception he practised while he was actually successful in his profession and could have risen higher and higher in that profession?
Would Shakespeare have written a play with Mr Gupta as the protagonist were he (Shakespeare) alive today? Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are people who had immense ability but also had a “flaw” (renowned Shakespearean critic, A C Bradley’s term) in character.
Ability is not enough. One should know oneself. That’s very ancient wisdom.
In India, however, one can get on without knowing oneself. One can be an utter fake and win till the end. That’s a very interesting lesson I have learnt. That’s why I call Rajat Gupta a saint. He would have been one were he doing his job in India.