Getting rich in rising Asia at a cost
Mohsin Hamid, Pakistan-based author of best-selling novels 'Moth's Smoke' and 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', shows what it means to get rich in...
Mohsin Hamid, Pakistan-based author of best-selling novels "Moth's Smoke" and "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", shows what it means to get rich in rising Asia . The book uses self-help format to tell the story of the third son of a cook who leaves his village to move to a city, falls in love with a pretty girl and sets up an industry. He becomes a "filthy rich" entrepreneur. Hamid takes his hero through 12 steps in 12 chapters to become a moneybag in a nameless city in South Asia that sizzles with energy, opportunity and inequality. The ingrained view is that South Asia is an "exotic place, a peculiar place and a central place with a colonial mindset". It could have been any place - why not Lahore or Lagos? The writer explains his narrative without specifics, comparing it to the Sufi ghazals that he grew up with. Generations are a way of life in Pakistan, where young men often live with their parents and elders, like Hamid who shares his home with his parents. The young and old play a cat-and-mouse waiting game. This inter-generational divide is captured in a vivid clash of body language in a domestic confrontation between the "saas" and the "bahu". "Your mother cleans the courtyard under the gaze of her mother-in-law. The old woman sits in the shadow, the edge of her shawl held in her mouth to conceal not her attributes of temptation but rather the lack of her teeth and looks on in unquenchable disapproval. Your mother is regarded in the compound as vain, arrogant and headstrong, and these accusations have bite, for they are all true. Your grandmother tells your mother she has missed a spot. Besides, she is toothless and holds a cloth between her lips, her words sound like she is spitting... The older woman waits for the younger woman to age." Hamid spotlights on the society in Pakistan's middle-class fringe with refreshing psychoanalysis of the characters. But he punctuates his narrative and observations with sage advise that tends to sound like homilies at places, flagging in their intelligence like the scores of droll motivation manuals crowding the book-shelves. "...As far as getting rich is concerned, love can be an impediment," Hamid fritters in cliches, robbing pace off the narrative. The book ends with death of the rags-to-riches hero - surrounded by his ex-wife, son and a pretty girl that the hero had been in love as a teen. - Madhusree Chatterjee