A recent impulse book-buying venture included How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid. I had never read any of his work before, and this one got some stellar reviews, so I had to check it out.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is ultimately something of an unrequited star-crossed love story, disguised as a rags-to-riches story, presented in a self-help book format. Told in a second-person narrative, Rising Asia follows the journey of an unnamed protagonist from his boyhood in rural poverty through his shady business as a fraudulent entrepreneur peddling counterfeit products (namely bottled water).
The main character is brazen and proud, never faltering in his drive for professional success (which, obviously, he measures in dollars). Despite his self-focus, he falls in love with “the pretty girl,” whom he cannot shake from his heart no matter how many years go by. The Pretty Girl also has her own rags-to-riches experience, and their paths intertwine several times.
At first, the self-help format and instruction-style narration is a little jarring and takes some getting used to, and it even facetiously has twelve chapters with titles like “Get an Education,” “Work for Yourself,” and “Have an Exit Strategy.” The protagonist is only referred to as “you,” and everyone (and every place) in the book also go unnamed. The second-person, present-tense writing really engages the reader, and I did feel more a part of the story. There are many beautifully crafted scenes that stretch the imagination and are visually evocative.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is fast-paced and relatively short, too; I read the whole thing in only a couple of sittings. I’m not exactly sure where it is supposed to take place, which was part of the fun in reading it. I sometimes imagined India (probably due to my reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance last year), but the author is from Pakistan. Hamid found a creative and provocative way to describe different facets of modern life in South Asia—wide class divide and economic hardships, bureaucratic corruption, and disparate urban and rural conditions. Great read!
Read from May 5 to 7, 2013.