Roller coaster life journey of a tycoon
Reviewed by Ambika Sharma

On a Prayer-Yash Birla
by Vishwaveer Singh. Penguin. Pages 265. Rs 599

On a Prayer-Yash BirlaThis book portrays the spiritual journey of a business tycoon, Yashovardhan Birla, the Chairman of Yash Birla Group. It also focuses on various other events, including his spiritual awakening, which shaped him to become a successful entrepreneur after losing his entire family in a freak plane crash when he was just 22 and still a student.

Having spent a cosseted childhood, Yash, as he is popularly known in his clan, grew up under the protected guidance of his elder sister Sujata who was his closest companion and best friend. Her untimely demise made him take some rash decisions, like he wanted to have a daughter despite contrary advice by doctors to his wife. The couple already had two sons. But this just explains the void which the untimely death of his sister and mother had left in his life. The spiritual names Yash chose for his children further explain his spiritual moorings. Even the loss of his close friend Jaideep, who was full of life and passion, left an indelible mark on his mind about the uncertainty of life and its unexpected vicissitudes.

The innocent joy of a teenager at seeing famous Bollywood stars descend on the Birla House for parties and the puerile pranks played by him in league with his sister portray how his upbringing had the flavour of a renowned business lineage, despite having the innocence of a child brought up in any ordinary home.

Events like passing away of his grandmother, whom he fondly called Ba, marked the beginning of his spiritual transformation when religious scriptures suddenly started making sense to him. In fact, these also provided him the courage to cope with the loss of his family later in life. He terms these events as nature's way of helping him cope with the colossal loss of his near and dear ones much before he could comprehend the nitty-gritty of life and business.

The profound pain which Yash felt at hearing about a mishap which had struck his parents and sister and the uncertainty which dogged him about their lives when he hoped against hope for their well-being are incidents which changed his life for good. The agony of losing his entire family and the abrupt sense of loneliness which engulfed him after cremating his family are emotions which marked the beginning of a new responsibility in his life and from a sudden happy-go-lucky student he was transformed into a responsible businessman shouldering responsibilities he was ill-prepared for.

The rigours of taking over the business empire left by his father and how he learned the hard way to bring it into profitability despite facing financial vicissitudes form crucial part of his transformation.

Replete with pictures of his family and minor experiences which shaped his life into a person with a firm belief in the divine designs, the book is an account of his journey to become an astute businessman. He developed the acumen to manage the legacy of a family among the nation's wealthiest. Accepting mistakes with humility and yet surging ahead with passion and dedication, Yash's journey is one of accepting life and drawing strength from its rigours.

Though the initial chapters hold the reader's curiosity as one tries to comprehend how the childhood of a renowned business tycoon could be different from an ordinary child's upbringing the excessively in-depth details of his teenage and youthful days fail to enthuse a reader. While the book is an apt portrayal of his growing up, it does not excite the reader beyond the initial chapters to delve more into the book.