The KhubSurat Diamantaire’s Autobiography

The KhubSurat Diamantaire’s Autobiography

‘Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals’ is the autobiography of Mr. Govind (fondly called Govindkaka) Dholakia written by Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik. I received two copies, one from Himanshu Bhatt, President of National HRD Network, South Gujarat Chapter and another from Govidkaka himself, duly autographed and with a few good words, so typical of him!

My favourite genre of books is autobiography, and I have read many, but this stands out because I know the autobiographer, Govindkaka. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions after spending a day at his company, SRK Exports.

Govindkaka is not an ordinary person; he is simple and unassuming which is so uncharacteristic of a person with exceptional achievements. Govindkaka studied up to seventh standard and moved to Surat (that will explain why I called him ‘KhubSurat’), and within five years launched his own business. He owns and runs a billion-dollar multinational company engaged in diamond cutting and polishing business and deals with who’s who in that business.

He was not even twenty years old when he launched his business and that is so typical of entrepreneurial spirit Gujaratis show; the difference is that he conducted his business in a way on which management gurus can write several case studies, that is to say, guided by his inner voice and by the wisdom of gurus and scriptures.

Memorable moment with Govindkaka. And with Sulabha, my wife and Dr Nirav, the HR Head.

That is an easy said but difficult-to-do mission. In this path he encountered difficult situations putting his deeply held beliefs and personal values to test, like the one in 2008, the downturn of economic activity which led to organizations retrenching thousands. Govindkaka listened to his inner voice, suavely managed to go against the advice of his managers and declined to retrench any employee. I have covered this in detail in my blog ‘When CEO’s Personal Philosophy Defines HR Policies’; I had interviewed him at length on this issue.

The autobiography covers astounding achievements of Govindkaka. It is amazing that a person handicapped by inadequate schooling can achieve so much in business, hobnobbing with who’s who on the national and international scene. He has met President Abdul Kalam and President Bill Clinton too among others. Govindkaka has set up numerous trusts, he spends Rs 4 to 5 Cr on charity each year! And he declares an award in the name of his mother which has been given to several persons of high standing including Ratan Tata!

There is no doubt in my mind that Govindkaka will not fail to inspire any person irrespective of his stage in life, and that is because of his humility, simple ways of living and surprisingly uncluttered thinking. Govindkaka was inspired by Dongre ji Maharaj and his decisions were deeply influenced by the teaching of Bhagwadgita and gurus like Dongre ji Maharaj. His motto ‘I am nothing but I can do anything’ is the result of his learning from Gurus, it means ‘Have no ego, but be confident’.

The 340-page autobiography is well researched and paints a picture of the times in which Govindkaka lived – the seventies, the difficulty in dealing with Israelis because of the lack of good diplomatic relationship with India, the difficulty in winning the confidence of foreign companies, the list is long. And needless to say, it also covers various his life extensively.

But we have to stop here and think about what makes a good autobiography? There is a lot of drama in everyone’s life, surely in the life of the autobiographer, which must come alive, and it does, in this case, to some extent. But does it show enough introspection? I am afraid the biographers, Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik let us down on this score. Arun Tiwari is former Missile Scientist and pupil of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Kamlesh Yagnik is an Energy Engineer and President at Sarvajanik University in Surat. Both seem to be in the awe of their hero!

Having known Govindkaka, who does not hold back himself in sharing difficult moments of his life, I can only conclude that the biographer duo has taken a rather overcautious approach, either glossing over the difficult times and events in his life or not picking them up at all. Good biographies contain enough to think about the way life is lived and, in the autobiography, it is examined; that is the worth of an autobiography!

This is why the autobiographies of Dev Anand and V Shantaram fail to inspire because they exclusively chronicle the achievements of the autobiographer but do not examine failures, and lack disclosures, which teach many lessons and often give a turn to the lives. 

Notwithstanding this lacuna, this is an autobiography which must be read for the sheer inspiration which it provides.

Kudos to Govindkaka Dholakia, who is a KhubSurat Diamantaire!

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’