Aspects of Wealth

by | Jun 1, 2023

Much before Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1976 and Karl Marx wrote Das Capital, Kautilya – also identified as Vishnugupta and Chanakya – wrote अर्थशास्त्र, Science of Wealth, in around 300 BCE.  Ancient India was a land of plenty, called the Golden Bird, and Indians saw the world as one family वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् and desired the happiness of all लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु

The Scottish philosopher Smith’s world was about how the wealth is created. He saw adventurous sailors crossing seas, conquering new territories and bringing wealth home, leading to industrialization. Smith famously said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love.

The world of the German philosopher Karl Marx was about how this wealth is distributed. Industrial Revolution had happened by his time, and there were wealthy owners of factories and poor workers employed there. According to Marx, capitalists take advantage of the difference between the labor market and the market for whatever commodity the capitalist can produce. Marx famously said, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

India favored badly after local kings were dethroned by invaders, and finally, British established their rule and destroyed the local economy. In my lifetime, I have seen the hegemony of the capitalistic United States, the dissolution of socialist Soviet Republic, the rise of communist China, and the transformation of my own democratic nation from a food-deficient nation to a 3-trillon dollar economy with good, if not the best, education, healthcare, and civic amenities, if not for everyone, to a quarter of its people and improving by the year. 

I was born in a middle class family. My grandfather, whom I have never seen, was a retired railway employee who gave tuitions in the neighborhood after retirement and constructed a three storied house in Meerut City, a cantonment town of British India, north of Delhi. My father worked in municipal administration and with the help of my mother, who was a schoolteacher, could send me for engineering education. My employment brought me to Hyderabad in 1982 and both my children are brought up here. We remain in middle class but have moved up from local to cosmopolitan standards of living. 

Thanks to my 33 years tutelage with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, which started with working under him in the missile laboratory and being his aide, and consequently my exposure to the higher echelons of the society when he had risen as a national figure, I traveled to many countries and met hundreds of people of consequence who generously shared with me their experiences and wisdom. 

It was through Dr Kalam that I met Govind Bhai Dholakia, a prominent diamond industry person well known for his philanthropy. When he invited Dr Kalam to visit his factory in Surat, Dr Kalam deputed me to meet Dholakia-ji and understand his model of wealth creation and charity. Dr Kalam and Dholakia-ji articulated on creating a knowledge foundation for organized skill development needed as technology raises its level from gross to subtle. Dr Kalam departed in 2015, and I remained a part of the knowledge foundation that Dholakia-ji had created as per Dr Kalam’s vision.

I visited Dholakia-ji many times, participated in his societal work – especially the population health project in his native village Dudhala and surrounding areas in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. I met his family members and employees and other people in the society with whom he had worked. Three things I found different in his world. First, though he could not study beyond primary school, his penchant for education, especially of the girl-child. Second, his support of needy patients in their health crises, both using his connections in the medical fraternity and financial support.  Third, his emphasis on an addiction-free life and a penchant for the joint family system. 

These are not mere ideas and sentences written as vision, mission statements on his company website, which does a business of 2 billion dollars every year, but these define his life. He supports a large number of schools. He has played a pioneering role in the creation of Kiran Super-specialty hospital in Surat so that no one has to rush to Mumbai for a medical emergency. His family – his six siblings and their children and grandchildren – more than 1500 people now – meet once every year and stay together for a few days.  

It was during the coronavirus pandemic that I broached the idea of writing a book about him. He was reluctant in the beginning but, perhaps impressed by Wings of Fire, which he had read in Gujarati and immensely liked, agreed. Then came the language barrier. So, his long-standing associate and educationist Kamlesh Yagnik joined me as the co-author. We had 48 Zoom sessions during the lockdown and published Diamonds Are Forever, So are Morals. Bhiku Parikh, Labour Party member of the House of Lords, wrote the introduction and, like a cherry on the cake, the Prime Minister of India has written a paragraph acclaiming the book.

I got another bestseller book to my credit, but that is not the point. During the writing of this book, I learnt a great deal about wealth or rather aspects of wealth. Indian society and a large part of it still live with the ancient mindset. They work hard and expect to be taken care of in need. Govind Bhai used his wealth to whatever extent he could to address this issue. The only prohibition he enforced upon the people who worked for him was zero tolerance of addiction – tobacco, alcohol, gambling, for example. 

Employees in Govind Bhai’s company – Shri Ramakrishna (SRK) Exports – are treated as family. I have participated in the 50th year celebration of his company in 2014 and dined with 20,000 people – from small children to aged parents of employees, everyone was there in the celebration. Expenses for children’s education and medical care for the elderly in the employees’ families are borne by the company, and the deserving would automatically get a job upon growing up. 

As a good biographer, I must ask him how he got this idea of utilizing his wealth. He narrated to me a dream he had transiting in London from a business breakthrough in Antwerp, Belgium. I quote from the book: 

Goddess Lakshmi was saying, ‘I have eight forms, Adi Lakshmi, Dhaanya Lakshmi, Vidya Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Sanatana Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Dhairya Lakshmi and Vijaya Lakshmi (आदिलक्ष्मी, धान्यलक्ष्मी, विद्यालक्ष्मी, धनलक्ष्मी, सन्तानलक्ष्मी, गजलक्ष्मी, धैर्य लक्ष्मी और विजय लक्ष्मी). Depending upon your goal—spiritual enlightenment, food, knowledge, resources, progeny, abundance, patience, and success, I support them with abundance and success. So, tell me son, what do you want?’

I said, ‘O Mother, give me spiritual enlightenment.’ The Goddess smiled and said, ‘Had you asked for Dhana Lakshmi (धनलक्ष्मी), I would have established you here controlling a quarter of the Diamond business of the world. Nevertheless, you asked for Adi Lakshmi (आदिलक्ष्मी), so go back home. I will always be with you, giving you enough for all your good works. Do whatever charity you want to do without any fear.’ 

So, the issue is not what wealth you want; the issue is for what you want it. If you are clear in your heart and mind, the symbolic words used here to mean intent and thought, you will get whatever you seek. 

I can see capitalism, communism, and socialism as three different streams emerging out of this one spiritual spring. Simplicity is what matters in life. If the life is complicated, no wealth is sufficient. Even the wealthiest people live miserably. I have seen Dr Kalam rising to become a great scientist and the President of India. He lived a very simple life – all belongings that could be packed in two suitcases – and yet I receive every year the royalty of Wings of Fire for having worked with him. 

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15 Comments

  1. About your blog post on the 1st of June, I was very impressed by such a benevolent human being as Shri Govind Bhai Dholakia. So much passion in a person towards the less privileged is rare to find these days.

    Philanthropy nowadays has become a trend to showcase one’s wealth rather than charity. Where can you find a person with such a refined sense of compassion and ultimate dedication towards the less fortunate? Shri Govind ji has used his hard-earned wealth and the blessings of the Almighty towards the welfare of society. Thanks to him.

    Many people earn money, and many are born into money, but not everyone can share their wealth for the betterment of mankind. Being born as human beings itself makes us superior in how we process or direct our thoughts and emotions in being conscious and empathetic.

    While talking about philanthropy I cannot help but mention one person who has greatly influenced my belief in humanity and whom I am absolutely in awe of and that person is Shri Ratan Tata ji. His simplicity and compassion are exemplary.

    Thank you Tiwari sir for such an enjoyable and informative blog once again. I feel honored to be associated with you sir, even if it is in a very small way. Looking forward to many more.

  2. You have superbly brought out the different aspects of wealth Prof Tiwariji !

    Your articulation on wealth creation and charity highlighting the noble deeds of a prominent diamond industry person is outstanding!!

  3. Very well elaborated sir…I could not refrain to mention the quote of President Franklin D. Roosevelt which is so apt over this blog, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, but it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”…

    It has been my profound journey to be working with Shri Govind Kaka & SRK Group since decade and a half. I could literally co-relate the nostalgic memories over said best practices by witnessing it in-person.

  4. I attended the book launch function in Hyderabad on May 7, 2023. I had a chance to hear Govind Kakaji. Chief guest Shri Parshottam Rupala spoke so well. I added a few lines inspired by this event.

    Society is in dire need to become just
    Is it impossible to prosper together?
    How can we be cruel, blind, and proud
    Shaking our heads and blocking our ears?

  5. Being charitable and providing for the needy are important features of the Indian character. Children are raised being engaged in little charitable acts. Why is charity so important? The existence of countless starving, poor, hungry, and destitute in the world points to the need for this essential teaching to be put into practice.

    There is even a concept of obligatory charity, different from voluntary charity. A specific, standardized percentage of what is over and above the necessities of life must be given to the poor and those in need. It can be given to anyone in many forms. Simple acts such as kindness and a smile are considered charity. Providing people in their careers akin to the removal of stones, and thorns from the paths of people is a charity.

    Affluent people may not realize how their wealth could strengthen whole communities. Giving charity correctly is crucial to both the well-being of the needy as well as the ultimate happiness of the wealthy. Shri Govind Bhai Dholakia does charity as he has grown from poverty, and I am sure that he got his immense wealth as a divine appreciation of his lifelong charitable acts.

  6. I was honoured to have met Mr. Govind Bhai Dholakia ji, lovingly known as Kaka ji, and observed the passion and compassion he has for his work and his associates. Philanthropy he is doing and did in the past was visible on several fronts, and is motivating the future generations. Tiwari ji pointed very appropriately that wealth can not be the goal, rather it is just a means to achieve much larger goals. Let’s realise this. I read the book Diamonds Are Forever, So are Morals with much interest and I feel it is a must read for all.

  7. Interesting blog.
    Truly said – the purpose of wealth should be known and used wisely for the benefit of the needy.

  8. Dear Sir, Thank you for sharing another thought-provoking blog. It made me think again about my sole purpose of existence on this earth, and what I have to do to serve humanity. Got stuck in a foreign country and have not been able to visit my village for the last 3 years, some needy people contacted me from my village when they saw my Facebook posts on social media platforms and asked me for some help as they got impacted badly during the Covid-19 lockdown. Still, village people are poor and dependent on govt. adds. Thank our PM Modi jee govt. for helping them by transferring some amount to their accounts directly.

    I feel there is a lack of skills and opportunities in the village otherwise you will find a hard time here in Sydney to get a plumber, DMLT staff, nursing, or electrician to fix small problems, lot of demand here. The young generation from the village should be trained and skilled to grab these opportunities abroad. Would like to have your guidance and some assistance to get a vision to serve my fellow villagers shortly. Warm Regards.

  9. Dear Sir, Thank you for sharing valuable information through your blog regularly. I have an interest in reading about the concepts taught by Adam Smith (The father of Economics), Karl Marks and Kautilya. I like Kautilya’s ‘Arthshastra’ which is still relevant to the present generation.
    I 100% agree with your opinion i.e. “The issue is not what wealth you want; the issue is for what you want it”.
    Thank you, Sir.

  10. Thank you Sir. Amazing Blog.

  11. Respected Professor Tiwari Sir,
    Each line of your blog inspire us.
    No doubt the values are most important aspects for successful life.

  12. Sir, We have some 200-dollar billionaires in our country today. If they create one world class organization serving people in healthcare and education and let it operate autonomously in self-sustained manner under a management and structure free of owner’s interference, India will change in no time.

    No wonder that our private sector is profit seeking and government sector is power seeking. Service to people is affected in both cases. Govind Kaka-ji took a lead role in creation of Kiran Super specialty hospital which is a model example needs to be repeated in other places.

    ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः
    सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
    सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत।
    ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥

    May all sentient beings be at peace, may no one suffer from illness, may all see what is auspicious, may no one suffer. Let there be peace, inside, amongst people, and everywhere.

  13. Excellent blog. And you are right. The idea is not just to accumulate wealth but to use it in a way that benefits humanity.

  14. Dear Prof Tiwari Thank you for this good piece of inspiration.

    I was honored to visit Kiran super specialty hospital. I held discussions with some of the grandchildren mentioned in the writing.

    Wealth is a vessel for blessing others. Seen and acted on that way, it becomes a blessing to the owner and society.

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