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Imbibing Wisdom, Not Knowledge

Berjis Desai, Managing Partner of J. Sagar Associates, talks about his favourite books

Published: Sep 12, 2012 06:19:40 AM IST
Updated: Sep 5, 2012 05:22:01 PM IST
Imbibing Wisdom, Not Knowledge

Last year, I read Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, the story of Larry Livingstone, a legendary stock market operator in the US between 1907 and World War II. Even after eight decades, amazing parallels exist. We encounter the same story of market manipulation, insider trading and bear cartels in our securities practice. The interplay of greed and fear is too basic to change.

Paul Kriwaczek’s In Search of Zarathustra is a dispassionate analysis of the prophet of the Zoroastrians, and makes great reading. Zarathustra was the first prophet, before Christ, to talk about a single God, the cosmic struggle between good and evil and the Apocalypse. The author adopts a traveller’s approach as he journeys through various countries tracing Zarathustra’s influence on Western thought. The simplicity of pragmatic thoughts and deeds is what permeates JSA’s management style. It is a firm that does not belong to a family or a dominant individual but is run as an enlightened collective, purely on merit.

My perennial favourite is Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, which, over the years, I must have read a dozen times. A short novel of barely 90 pages, Siddhartha is the story of a young man’s quest to discover the essence of life. After varied experiences, he ends up as a wise ferryman, who learns lessons from the silently flowing river. Knowledge can be imparted but not wisdom. When you search for something, you miss other things in front of your eyes, and much is lost in the forest of words. Some of the most profound truths expounded in lengthy treatises are explained by Hesse, with a disarming lucidity to the student on the Path.

It is a book that provides great solace during a crisis and is open to a different interpretation every time you read it. Great humility and complete equanimity to face any situation in life is what I have imbibed from Siddhartha.

Berjis Desai is Managing Partner of J. Sagar Associates (JSA), a national law firm

(As told to Nilofer D’Souza)

(This story appears in the 14 September, 2012 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)