Emphasis on morals sets Govind Dholakia's autobiography apart

Dholakia founded Shree Ramkrishna Exports, a key player in Surat's diamond trade


A short anecdote in diamond baron Govind Dholakia's autobiography Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals gives us an incisive insight into the psyche of this small-town guy from Gujarat and his resolve and sense of purpose and destiny in the grand scheme of things. On his first visit to Mumbai with friends during Diwali 1968, Govind 'kaka', as he is called, spotted a huge building with a great dome near the majestic Gateway of India. A passerby informs him it is the 'big and splendid' Taj Mahal Hotel, before snidely adding, “You people cannot go there. Looking at your clothes, the watchman won't allow you to enter the premises of the hotel.”

Curious and determined, 'Kaka' and friends get industrious – they call a taxi, even though the hotel was just across the street from where they were standing at the Gateway of India. As the car dropped them at the portico -- the guard opened the door to let them in!

However, the guard was watchful enough that he approached them and escorted them out the door. Though humiliated at the rudeness, it wasn't the end of the endeavour – listening to their dialect, a Gujarati contractor working in the hotel building on some repairing project identified them as 'apnewala' and encouraged them to enter the hotel from the back-door service lane, from where they went to the restaurant and had tea.

“Sitting there, we felt like princes,” Dholakia recounts in the book. “Everything there – the furniture, the tablecloth, curtains, lights – was like some palace we had never even imagined.

Never one to cower down in front of the status quo, however small it may be, this minor incident is but a harbinger of what was to happen in the coming years for this young man, a multi-decade life saga that would raise the prestige and power of India's diamond craft business from beyond being just the downstream 'factory' for the global gems and jewellery epicentre in Belgium.

Dholakia founded Shree Ramkrishna Exports (SRK) which is one of the biggies in Surat's diamond trade, changing the face (and fortune) of the Gujarat town. While the book details his setting up of the business right from his first visit to Mumbai (with its foray into the Taj hotel) to coughing up money to pay for the diamonds for cutting, impressing merchants and moving up the value chain, it is evident in the tone and tenor of the book that, for him, there is something more important than amassing riches or expanding business. As the title says, diamonds are forever, but equally important are morals. This blinkers-on emphasis of morals and values is what sets this book apart from being another recounting of a successful life, looked back in satisfied reflection.

Even PM Modi is impressed. In his praise to the book written by a fellow-Gujarati, he said, “The simile between morals and diamonds in the title of the book itself sets the tone. The emphasis on morals is particularly relevant to modern times, especially for our youth.” Scientist-writer Arun Tiwari, better known as the co-writer of late President APJ Abdul Kalam's bestseller bio Wings of Fire does a decent job of putting to paper the recollections of the diamond tycoon, along with Dholakia's longtime associate Kamlesh Yagnik.

Referring to diamonds, ''fireballs of trapped lights'', as his God in physical form, Dholakia reiterates his belief in the power of destiny throughout the book. “There is nothing I am quite sure about, except that more than I was living my life, life was living through me,” he says, before adding in his favourite life philosophy, “You are nothing, but you can do anything.”

Diamond Are Forever, So Are Morals: An Autobiography of Govind Dholakia

As told to Arun Tiwari & Kamlesh Yagnik

Published by Penguin Enterprise (An imprint of Penguin Random House)

Price: Hardbound Rs 699, paperback Rs 520

338 pages

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