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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Brothers, billions, businesses...

Book: Mahabharata in Polyester – The Making of the World's Richest Brothers and Their Feud
Author: Hamish McDonald
Publisher: University of New South Wales Press
Pages: 402
Price: Rs 1706 on Flipkart

Australian journalist Hamish McDonald's reworked version of his earlier book, The Polyester Prince, re-charts the growth of Dhirubhai Ambani and Reliance and takes the reader through the events that led to the feud between his billionaire sons, Mukesh and Anil. The Mahabharata in the title is misleading, for McDonald does not segregate the Ambani siblings into Kauravas or Pandavas, though Anil did call Anand Jain, (Dhirubhai's 'third son' and Mukesh's trusted lieutenant) a modern-day Shakuni. Unlike the Mahabharata, where you unwittingly take sides with the good Pandavas in their triumph over the evil Kauravas, here you have difficulty choosing between characters coloured in grey. Even the Indian government simply warned the brothers to end their dispute among themselves in the interest of the nation. A rags-to-riches story of one of the largest family-run corporations in the world, of a man who maneuvered the government and the law of the land to fill his own pockets and those of his shareholders, with a cast comprising the Ambanis, the Gandhis, the Bachchans, the Wadias, Ramnath Goenka, Pranab Mukherjee, VP Singh, Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, Murli Deora, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Arun Shourie, Ram Jethmalani, Amar Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and many other top politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and commentators, Mahabharata in Polyester is a window to India's economic growth pre- and post-liberalisation. A tale of business, politics, relations, intrigue, crime and competition, this book is a must-read.  

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