Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju - a review

Flying can be hazardous to mental health these days, unless you have a book or two to help you cope. Well, despite being well stocked up on a recent trip, I bought this one at Mumbai airport.

Ramalinga Raju beckoned , "Pick me up, pick up!" Pick up and read all about the bad-bad things I have done in life.

Well, quite like Raju's life, the book too does not live up to its promises. Agreed, nine months is a short time to put together and release a book but one does expect to learn *something* new?

"The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju", unfortunately, is like a 180 page long newsreport. With neither the brevity nor the breathless immediacy of 'news'.

Starting from the infamous "confession" the book takes you 'back' - but very superficially. There is a chapter on the crucial board meeting of Dec 16, one titled 'A Scheme is Hatched' - on the sub prime crisis and its effect on Raju's ill empire.

In between there is some mention of Raju's early days, his family, a faint whiff of his personality. But too soon, we are back to Maytas, Hyderabad metro project - the exoskeleton of the scam. What's missing is the pounding of the heart, the taste of fear, the rush of blood!

Author Kingshuk Nag thanks dozens of people connected with Satyam and the Rajus for 'sharing their insights' but very few of these insights shine through. And none are actually attributed to anyone.

While I don't expect a 'jeena isi ka naam hai' with Raju's primary school friends being asked to comment on him, surely some former confidantes could have been persuaded to talk?

Among them D V S Raju (a cousin who was instrumental in setting up Satyam between 1987 and 1992) and Srini Raju (brother in law, who helped run Satyam till the year 2000. Also the fesity Income Tax dy commissioner who almost derailed Raju with her queries back in 2002... wonder what *she* has to say!

At the end of this quick read, I gazed at the puffy clouds around the aircraft window and thought to myself...

a) Ramalinga Raju , you did all this for land, land and more land. But tell me, tu lekar kahaan jayega?. Kingshuk Nag makes just this point by referring to Tolstoy's classic short story "How much land does a man need?"

The answer is:"A man needs only six feet of land to cover him from head to toe..." Unfortunately this country is full of Rajus, who never quite understand that!

b) Raju was the proverbial dork who wanted to be Mr Popular. Quoting from page 76.

"It was partly a deep inferiority complex that made Raju embark on this unholy path... Raju knew that he could neither match Narayana Murthy nor Azim Premji, as Satyam procured mucht of its business by quoting cheaper rates... But Andhraites had made him into an icon and he had to live up to this image".

Raju had to show 'as good' quarterly results as an Infosys or a Wipro - hence he fudged. The company actually waited till Infy released its figures and then decided what numbers to show!

c) Lastly, blind love for his sons was another fatal flaw. Again, common with Indian politicians, actors and businessmen. No known cure for this affliction!

To sum up, 'The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju' will sell decent numbers but does satiate the thirst to get inside the mind of this smooth criminal. Perhaps someday we'll have a 'David Frost' to do unto Raju a full and final confession.

I think, like Nixon, he would probably justify his actions and say, "Karna padta hai - sab karte hain". Only to rue the fact that he was the unlucky one who got caught.

'The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju' by Kingshuk Nag
Rs 250, Harper Collins

31 comments:

  1. Hi Rashmi,

    The scenario is almost like people trying to ignore problems around us in our daily life. The typical answer i have often heard is "Why should i be bothered if my countrymen are illiterate and poor?"

    "Karna padhta hain" is a reaffirmation of what already so strongly exists in our society.

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  2. Of all the habits we get accustomed to in our daily lives, the one we ALL must to get rid of is "Karna Padhta Hai". This is a very poor and lame excuse that many have used for their individual greed and lack of conviction.

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  3. Disappointed to hear that there was no real depth to the book. But not surprised. Raju, I'm told, was also spurred on by peer pressure with the rise of the like of GMR and GVK in infrastructure. Before they came along, he was the AP business icon, but they threatened to dethroned him. They had the added advantage of hundreds of acres of land which appears to be an obsession with AP businessmen. So their status was greater. Hence Maytas, the foray into infrastructure and the fraud to fund acquisition of land. Or so it seems.

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  4. I read the blog in question. I am sorry to say that I do not agree with Rashmi. The book has got pace, it is written in simple English and progresses logically. For a layperson like me it has got new stuff too. I did not know about the life of Ramalinga Raju and how he made his fortunes in life. I did not know about the guys on whom he depended for carrying out his plans. I did not know how political connections helped him. Most significantly I did not know about his love for land and how he had become a real estate baron under the guise of being an IT czar. The book has certainly added to my knowledge and has given me insight into Raju's personality. Rashmi may be disappointed because she expected much more. But I am sure that at the price ( Rs 250), the book is certainly a good read. Also please tell me an alternative read to get a peep into the Raju phenomemnon.

    Sucharita

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  5. Well, he is just one unlucky chap. There are thousands of rajus who are fooling junta in stock exchange.

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  6. Whether or not the book is good or not, isn't there a law which prevents criminals from cashing in on their notoriety? I think there is a such a law in the US. Unless ofcourse Raju is excused because he has not yet been convicted.

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  7. I do have to agree with Rashmi, the book was real dull. Infact didnt even finish it compltely. Luckily didn't pay the entire amount for the book since bought it online from www.bookadda.com at a 27% discounted rate.

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