This is an extract from Siddhartha Deb’s February 2011 cover story, “Sweet Smell of Success: How Arindam Chaudhuri made a fortune off the aspirations—and insecurities—of India’s middle classes.” The article had previously been removed pursuant to an injunction granted by a civil court in Silchar, in 2011, as part of IIPM’s Rs 500-million lawsuit against The Caravan. In February this year, a single judge of the Delhi High Court vacated the injunction. The IIPM appealed this decision, and the injunction was restored while the appeal was being heard. In an order passed on 27 November, a division bench of the Delhi High Court dismissed the appeal, upholding the single judge’s order. In keeping with this latest decision, The Caravan has republished the story online. Subscribe now to the read the story in full, and read more about IIPM’s case against The Caravan here.
One evening in September, I went to the Grand Ballroom auditorium of the Park Royal Hotel to hear Arindam speak. I had heard him address a crowd before, but that had been a familiar audience, made up of graduating IIPM students herded into a hotel auditorium near the Satbari campus. The students seemed awestruck but restless, their attention wandering whenever the talk veered away from the question of their future to trickle-down theory; no doubt they were more concerned with trickle-up. Arindam hectored them a little, and he had been worried enough about this to send me a text message a few hours later, asking me to “discount some of the harsh words i said to students.”
The event at the Grand Ballroom was different. It was the final performance of a daylong “leadership” seminar for which people had paid 4,000 rupees, the previous speakers having included Arindam’s wife and several IIPM professors. Over 100 people, quite a few women among them, sat under the chandeliers as a laptop was set up on stage. They looked like aspirational rather than polished corporate types, the men with red sacred threads around their wrists, the women in saris and salwarkameezes, a gathering of middle-class, middle-rung, white-collar individuals whose interest in leadership skills had a dutiful air. After a number of children—it was unclear to whom they belonged— clustered around Arindam to get copies of the all-time best-seller Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch signed, Arindam took the stage. He wore a shiny black corduroy suit, the jacket displaying embroidery on the shoulders, and loafers that appeared to be made of snake skin.