New Delhi, Nov 14 Young and middle-aged corporates in sharp suits and expensive watches are standing in a disciplined queue. But they wont be content with just an autograph. Most of them also want pictures with him. ‘Him’ has no problem obliging. It’s his moment. He is nothing short of a rockstar right now.
The occasion may have been the launch of Rajat Gupta’s book ‘Mind Without Fear’ (Juggernaut) at the Nehru Memorial Museum Library in the capital, but the corridor is full of people confessing in almost a star-struck tone how he has been an inspiration to them. For the uninitiated, Gupta was the first foreign-born Managing Director of management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company in the US from 1994 to 2003. In 2012, he was convicted by US courts for insider trading and spent two years in jail.
In ‘Mind Without Fear’, he tells his side of the story, which he did not speak of during his trial, based on the advice of his lawyers.
Mention if the economic conditions in the US prevailing during the trial had an impact on the decision, Gupta told IANS, “Let us not forget that it was the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes. People were losing their jobs, pensions and there was economic fear and uncertainty. People also believed that they hadn’t done anything wrong and it was the financial system that was to be blamed. Consequently, they wanted people to be held accountable. Sadly, the ones actually responsible were never really convicted.”
Though he started the outline of the book while in prison, the actual process of writing commenced after a year of the release. “And I took one and a half years to write it.” Ask him about the process, and if it helped getting things out of his system, and he asserts, “Yes. Of course, though writing certain parts was tough as one had to relive several painful moments and situations, but I felt much better post writing them. Frankly, I am quite happy with the end product. Many people who have read it say it’s quite gripping.”
Talking about the time spent in prison, the writer, recalling his several weeks in solitary confinement said, “That was almost like torture and I should be a very angry man. Of course, I wasn’t happy about it, but in the end if I reflect upon it, it gave me a great deal of learning. I read the Gita six or seven times in those seven weeks. It allowed me to cope. It brought context and meaning to those 49 days. Physically, the solitary confinement is all steel, harsh and cold. You go through such extraordinary indignities? One of the greatest lessons in Gita is equanimity — happiness and sorrow are the same things. I can say that I have emerged much richer from my prison experience. I now have more empathy.”
Stating that he does regret not testifying, Gupta, who has also been on the board of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble and American Airlines adds, “Not because I think that it would have changed anything, but I would have been able to tell myself that I tried everything I could. The book is my side of the story and main intent of writing it was not to try to argue my innocence or present evidence to refute the judgement. It was more to say, ‘Ok, here is how I experienced it’. In fact, I wanted to give an idea about certain lessons I had learnt.”
While Gupta feels much better — physically, mentally and spiritually post the prison term as it was a period of learning, reflection, and being at peace with himself, he wants to focus more on his philanthropic work now. He wants to be more involved with the Indian School of Business (ISB), which he co-founded in 1997 and Public Health Foundation of India.
“I am in my 70’s. Besides the two, I have also started thinking and working on reforms in the criminal justice system in the US.”
Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for his autograph has increased manifold.