The Marwaris – A Genetic Genius of Shekhavati

After years of wandering the less travelled roads in that historically forgotten region of Shekhavati, my father said to me “There must be something about the water of that land, for whosoever has drunk it has really gone places!” He was referring to the formidable Marwaris. Later, observing the wisdom of his comment,when the research was done and the first book on Shekhavati, published at our singular initiative, I could add a rider to that statement: “But only those who drunk its water and migrated, were twice blessed. Those who stayed remained like the rest!”

The much-maligned Marwaris have all the historic traits of genius that make a community successful and thereby coveted. This brings both envy and jealousy for those who sit about without using their sixth sense and letting opportunity pass like an invisible breeze. So, given the same circumstances of a semi-arid and hostile countryside, with an acute shortage of water, the sun beating down mercilessly for some eight months, you would hardly expect the rise of a community, which the American scholar Timberg calculated, controlled 60% of the assets of the modern sector of the Indian economy. No mean achievement that, if one considers the size of that historical region which forms 1/6th of one of the 30 states of India.

The lessons of history from the early years of Marwaris on the make:
1. Austerity. When less is ‘more’, more can only be a bounteous plenty
2. Simplicity. This keeps unhealthy competition and competitiveness at bay
3. Sharing. No one can take from you that which you have the power to create constantly
4. Lack of insecurity. To plough back and not hoard so that all is used constructively
5. Forsaking immediate greed. This builds trust and sets up long-term relationships of mutual benefit.
6. Giving back to society. For how much can one consume? More...

These qualities may seem to overlap, for indeed they must, within a human psyche nothing is so cut and dry, but it is in the nuances of the application of these Marwari traits, that their success lay. And so, with the simple cotton dhoti and the nine yard safa finely tied over the head, the first few traders from Rajasthan set out to seek their fortune in the port town of Calcutta. They could live and eat frugally. Their unstitched lower garment was easily adaptable as a body cover as much as a bed sheet. Soon they set up Serais where others of their community could come and share the same austere life without any feeling that they were being denied anything. Shiv Narain Birla fist stayed in a Serai of the Jhunjhunwalas while acclimatising. Later, when G.D. Birla faced discrimination and insult from the British, he was able to rally the community. This is so rare both historically and today. When one Raja of Sind was defeated by the Islamist armies backed by the Caliphate at Baghdad, way back in the 10th century, his neighbourhood too, shortsightedly rejoiced his fall, till his turn came, and they all fell one by one like skittles in a game.

The IT success of India today, comes as a first after almost two centuries – a coalition of competitors – the apt title of a book by Kiran Karnik. It shows, how, against all odds, success is imminent if even weaklings gather force against a giant. So the Marwaris were the Lilliputians who became the Goliaths.-