New York: The broken relationships between mentors and proteges have always been material for great literature- be it Julius Caesar and Brutus, or Professor Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort. And the tension was apparent when Anil Kumar walked into the federal courthouse to testify against Rajat Gupta - the man who had built his career at McKinsey. This is the first time that the two men are in the same room after insider trading charges were levelled against them. Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom but as Mr Kumar walked in Mr Gupta turned around to look him straight in the eye, never breaking contact, until Mr Kumar had taken his seat in the witness stand. Mr Kumar, on the other hand, refused to meet his gaze.
The prosecution grilled Mr Kumar on the plans that he, Mr Gupta, and Mr Rajaratnam had to start an India-focussed investment management firm together, aiming to show that Mr Gupta and Mr Rajaratnam had a close business relationship. As was the case in the Rajaratnam trial, Mr Kumar demonstrated a razor-sharp intellect and an impressive coolness on his feet, sticking closely to the facts, and not allowing either the prosecution or the defence to lead him where they wanted.
Mr Kumar will be on the stand again on Monday, and will have to perform a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the prosecution will expect him to offer testimony that is highly favorable to their case, since he has pleaded guilty to securities fraud in the Rajaratnam case and since his sentencing- which could be for a maximum of six years- depends on the cooperation he offers them. On the other hand, he is likely to want to focus on India, professionally, after his jail sentence. For this Mr Kumar will need the friendship and forgiveness of Indian business leaders and neither is likely to be forthcoming if he is seen to be throwing Mr Gupta under the bus. It is a difficult trade-off to work with, but if today's performance is anything to go by, Mr Kumar may well prove equal to the task.