Saturday, February 20, 2010

Little black books

Why are Indian businessman so reluctant to pen their memoirs? Ramkrishna Dalmia had an eventful life. At one time, his business empire was the third-largest in the country after the Tata and Birla families. After Independence, his fall from grace was swift. He even served a jail sentence in 1956 for financial impropriety. Little was heard of him after that, till he died in 1978.

Apart from his riches, he had other claims to fame. Dalmia took no less than six wives, and dabbled in politics. He saw himself as a statesman at large, and his contempt for Jawaharlal Nehru made him a public enemy. Nehru once called him an ugly man with an ugly mind and an ugly heart. He was the owner of Bennett, Coleman & Company, the country’s largest publisher of newspapers, but sold it for a song to his son-in-law, Shanti Prasad Jain, when he was strapped for cash. He was an industrialist but was ruined by astrologers.

Better than fiction? You bet. The events can all be found in Father Dearest: The Life and Times of RK Dalmia (Roli Books, 2003) written by Neelima Dalmia Adhar, Dalmia’s daughter from his last marriage. Dalmia, it was said, could have stopped Partition. He was friends with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. All hell broke lose once Jinnah discovered that Dalmia was having an affair on the sly with his sister. Maybe that he could have stopped Partition is far-fetched. Nobody’s left to endorse the story or trash it. What is certain is that the book is a good read. And there aren’t many such books around.

Full report here Business Standard

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