Dalit Millionaires Book Review: The 15 stories transport the reader from emotions ranging from admiration, Inspiration, empathy, angst… to ego, sycophancy, cleverness, unjust blame and artificial criticism.
Dalit Millionaires: 15 Inspiring Stories is written by Milind Khandekar. The book was released in Hindi in December 2013. Encouraged by the market response to the book, the publishers decided to launch it in English as well. The book is a compilation of the Life stories of 15 Dalit or Scheduled Caste millionaires. How they braved all odds in their lives, including those emanating from untouchability and societal perception, and reached to the point where they are inspiration for others.
The book is translated to English by Vandana R. Singh and Reenu Talwar. Before sharing with you my views about the book, below is a small intro to the book by the publisher and the author:
Dalit Millionaires is a collection of profiles of fifteen Dalit entrepreneurs who have braved both societal and business pressures to carve out highly profitable niches for themselves. The book is a vivid chronicle of how the battle has moved from the village well to the marketplace.
There are tales describing how the multimillionaire Ashok Khade, at one time, did not have even four annas to replace the nib of a broken pen, how Kalpana Saroj, a child bride, worked her way to becoming a property magnate, and how Sanjay Kshirsagar moved on from a 120-foot tenement and now seems well on his way to become the emperor of a 500-crore rupee firm.
The only common thread through these stories is the spirit that if you can imagine it, you can do it.
To get you a fair idea about which Dalit Millionaires’ success stories you’re going to read, here is the list of Dalit Millionaires who made it big :
Ashok Khade, Kalpana Saroj, Ratilal Makwana, Malkit Chand, Savitaben Parmar, Bhagwan Gawai, Harsh Bhaskar, Devjibhai Makwana, hari Kishan Pippal, Atul Paswan, Devkinandan Son, J.S. Phulia, Sarath Babu (the Boy who forego IIM Ahmedabad Campus placement), Sanjay Kshirsagar and Swwapnil Bhingardevay.
Truly Inspiring Stories of Dalit Millionaires | Book Review
To begin with, the 210 pages book is simply addictive. The book is so finely written that once you start reading it, you will find difficult to put it down. Even a slow reader will not take more than 15 days to complete the book. The book is interesting for both dalit and non- dalit readers.
That said, reading the book takes the reader into different frames of mind. Sometimes the mind feels admiration, Inspiration,empathy and angst. At other times, it feels ego, sycophancy, cleverness, unjust blame and artificial criticism. But that’s quite justified on the part of the author, as he’s simply narrating the lives of the achievers as narrated by them.
Take for instance, the story of Ashok Khade, a big name in Oil Business and the Chairman of DAS Offshore Engineering Private Limited. When he founded his own company, he found himself in a big dilemma, what to call his company. Ashok says that since he couldn’t call his company ‘Khade’ as that would reveal his caste to the World, he worked on various combinations and finally the company was christened DAS after putting together the first letters of their names — Dattatreya, Ashok and Suresh, his two brothers.
He’s not alone, who talked about the negative caste perception in India. Malkit Chand of Ludhiana, a garment manufacturer, also shares an incident early in his life where cloth suppliers in Ludhiana used to charge him Rs 15 or 20 more than what they charged from non-dalits. As a budding businessman Malkit Chand felt dejected by the double standards, but he did not led the emotion overpower him. Instead he resolved to deliver best quality to his buyers at competitive rates.
Savitaben Parmar from Gujarat, who made a fortune from coal, narrates an incident where anti-reservation protesters attacked her house and burnt it down. Savitaben’s feelings might be very similar to Chand’s. The incident has made such an indelible mark on her psyche that she moved to a Dalit society and believes that it’s always good to live among one’s own caste.
There are two ways of looking at the above incidents. They may be real, or they may be emanating from certain preoccupied notions, perceptions and insecurities in both Dalits and non-dalits. But still, going by the caste structure in India and its consequences on people, the incidents can be understood. The two believed that they were cornered for non-professional reasons and that appears to be the case, going by their narration of the events.
Nearly all the stories in the book talk about the tough childhood laced with scarcity and misfortune. There’s no doubt that it makes the book interesting and more realistic. On the other side, the poverty and hard times is usually an aspect in any self made person. On this count, these dalit millionaires are no different. This way their stories can inspire every reader. But the book will inspire dalit community more than anyone, as they may also see the caste hardships or caste bias claimed by many dalit millionaires in India.
Talking of ego, sycophancy, cleverness, unjust blame and artificial criticism, let I share some incidents shared.
Ratilal Makwana of Bhavnagar Gujarat, made a fortune from Oil Distributorship. Although belonging to the third generation of a business family, Ratilal claims that while growing up in Bhavnagar, Dalits were openly discriminated against. In 1980s he tried for IPCL distributorship. Since the other two contenders for the agency came from high caste, he had to meet several influential people including Babu Jagjivan Ram and petroleum minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna who wrote to IPCL in his favour. In 2002 , Reliance industries bought IPCL and consequently cancelled Ratilal agency. Makwana is still convinced that caste discrimination is the root cause for the cancellation of the agency. Reliance categorically denies Ratilal’s allegations and informs that the decision was taken after an audit by Ernest & Young. Swwapnil Bhingardevay, the managing Director of Khandoba prasanna Sakhar Karkhana limited (Maharashtra), has a similar experience. Ever since 1975 Swwapnil is living his father’s dream of a sugar mill. But the dream is yet to fulfill. In 2008, Swwapnil approached Pune’s Cananra Bank for a loan to set up a spirit distillery. He had earlier taken loan from the same bank and because of his inability to repay it, the bank declined the loan. Bhingardevay attributes this to him being dalit.
Such claims look harsh on the people these businessmen dealt with. As such hassles and setbacks are quite normal in the lives of entrepreneurs and businesses. When a business sees using influential people to speak or write in their favor, then they must have the humility to accept such business obstacles as well.
Not disclosing any more details of the book, the book is full of interesting and inspiring incidents about human traits such as indomitable will, enterprise, creativity, hard work and leadership. It’s also a study into social and econic hardships people can face. It’s also a book about the enterprising ways strong willed people invent to surmount them. Going by the lives of these Dalit millionaires, it becomes clear how much strength one needs to succeed in one’s chosen career. At times a non-dalit reader will also feel that the unjust treatment experienced by these achievers is their own imagination. But rather than making such a closet view, it’s better to look at how Indian society functions. Still, if some incidents in the book take you within the realms of ego, sycophancy, cleverness, unjust blame and artificial criticism on the part of these dalit millionaires, you can do so as well.
Overall, the book is a fine narration of admiration, Inspiration,empathy and so on. The book is simply addictive and has the ability to inspire every reader. It offers fine insights into the additional hardships (in addition to business challenges) a dalit entrepreneur has to face in India. The book also offers insight into the caste discrimination in India as recent as 2014. The book which can be read as an eBook as well, offers insights into what stops dalit youth from achieving big. It has the potential to inspire every budding entrepreneur, ambitious person, businessman or The 15 Dalit millionaires shared in the book, can be heroes for both both Dalits and non-dalits.
My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Book Title: Dalit Millionaires: 15 Inspiring Stories
By: Milind Khandekar
Publisher: Penguin, published: 2013-12-03