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Get Filthy Rich

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corporate blogger“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a beautiful novel written by the brilliant South Asian novelist, Mohsin Hamid. The unique thing is it is written on the style of a self-help book and every chapter begins with a new advice of a motivational book. All the 12 chapters are titled in the form of a self-help advice like:

Move to the City

Get an Education

Don’t fall in love

Avoid Idealists

Learn from a Master

Work for yourself

Be prepared to use violence

Befriend a bureaucrat

Patronize the artist of war

Dance with Debt

Focus on the fundamentals

Have an exit strategy

Another unusual aspect is both the main characters of the novel are not given any names. Rather, following a self-help book’s style, the name of the main character is You.

In fact, all the mentioned above chapters are different stages of You’s life, who emerges as a self-made entrepreneur. He is born poor as a child of a cook and a house maid, who have, fortunately, move to the city from their village. Here, as the youngest sibling among the three, he gets an opportunity to education rather than obligating to share the earning burden as his elder brother has to do. After his early college years, he has to leave his education for work. Soon, he starts his own business of pure drinking water that flourishes over a period of time, until by his midlife years, he is among the business tycoons. He is shrewd enough to learn from his on-hand experience and knows how to make his way through a corrupt social and economic system.

In his teen years, he falls madly in love with another nameless character as Pretty Girl. She has the similar poor family background as his, who starts her journey as a model and by her midlife years she opens and runs a furniture outlet very successfully. Off and on they keep on meeting each other, though pursuing their unconnected lives. You gets married to a lovely girl of half his age, who proves herself as a wonderful housewife and committed mother. Unfortunately, they both couldn’t make a really happy and fulfilling life together just because they were not each other’s type. Gap between them widens over the years until both have separate lives under one roof. He is too occupied with his business and tries to find his satisfaction in paid relationships while missing the Pretty Girl throughout his life.

Contrarily, his wife finds solace in religion and spends her time with religious organizations and activities. When her only son goes abroad after his local education, she gets a divorce from You and gets married to a likeminded religious person.

The relationship-oriented Pretty Girl has a hi-fi company, but she can never settle down with a committed relationship as marriage.

You remains single rest of his life after his wife leaves him. And, finally, in his old age he has to squeeze his business as he has no one to depend on for this purpose. In his last days, he meets the Pretty Girl again and they spend a few months together.

Seeing You’s longing for the Pretty Girl, a reader expects that a twist will bring both of the lovers together. But surprisingly, despite missing her badly, You never thinks of pursing her. In the beginning, the reader justifies that he is not a match to the Pretty Girl due to his lower financial and social status than hers, but even after becoming an equal to her in his midlife, he never gives it a thought despite feeling very strongly about her, which is very surprising. Perhaps, he can never listens to his inner voice.

Another aspect is strange; as a Muslim reader, one expects that even a so-called Muslim in a Pakistan society is expected to be spiritual and religious by his old age years, as it is time to return to his Lord (Allah). But he seems engaged with the worldly matters till the end. The question is, in the last 2 decades of his life when he was prosperous enough, why doesn’t he take his personal life and happiness as his priority. When his wife leaves him, why doesn’t he plan a life for him as well that is fulfilling not only financially but emotionally and religiously, like he could have married the love of his life, the Pretty Girl?

Both the main characters of You & Pretty Girl portray an atheist approach of life that very few people live in our society. Mohsin Hamid might choose it to engage a wider audience around the world.

Mohsin Hamid has created an impressive text through simple but long and loaded sentences. As compared to his other two novels, here he doesn’t use metaphoric language more often. Yet, all the scenes are vivid, detailed and interconnected like a high resolution movie.

The plot is interesting and captivating till the end. The story moves smoothly from chapter to chapter without much twist, highlighting the struggle and conflicts of various characters with authenticity in the context of complicated Pakistani social dilemmas.

Reading recommended.

About Kausar Bilal

I am a Trainer for Professional Writing. I conduct Writing workshops for Business Executives, Young Professionals, Academic Writers, College/University Students, Journalists, Advertisers, Corporate Content Writers and Nonfiction Writing Lovers. As a Corporate Writer and Social Change Agent, you may find my voice in diverse areas on this site. Your feedback and comments are most welcomed.

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6 comments

  1. I don’t buy Mohsin Hamid’s “Don’t fall in love” axiom though I know he is a good writer.

    Nice review here. It makes me want to read the book under review. I will be able to shoot Mohsin Hamid after reading the book.

  2. Compelling
    Will read it whenever I am successful in laying my hands on it.

  3. Good review indeed: My only reservation is about prevalence of religion in Pakistani society that you mentioned: I disagree with your notion that majority of our society look for religious salvation in their midlife or old age. If you look closer apart from the socalled middle class and lower middle classes, the working class and elite of our society do not take religion that seriously, even after turning to their old age, they still linger on the way they used to be in their earlier life, although it seems not that fashionable these days, but still… I am from a working class background, and I never heard my grandfather or father mentioning God in their usual bragging about their colorful lives and their desire to go to heaven by turning to religion, which they never been able to observe in their earlier lives.

  4. Thank you Saqib for stopping by and contributing to the post.
    Actually, Saqib, what has been happening in our society generally, and specially in working class, that people start taking religion seriously around their mid life years and by the time they get old, they think of their ultimate destination (their life hereafter) more often. That’s how we see grandparents teaching their grandkids religion, taking them to mosques, teaching moral values, manners, moral and religious stories and so on. So, generally, we have a culture like this. Being Muslims, we keep thinking about right and wrong, regret about inappropriate behaviors, and want to go closer to God in some ways throughout our lives and the more we grow older, the more we feel connected to God. I think it is result of our lifetime experiences as well. You know what I mean?

  5. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you.

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