Book Review: Revisiting Mohsin Hamid’s ‘How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’

The much acclaimed Pakistani writer, Mohsin Hamid, author of ‘Moth Smoke’ and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ has also written ‘How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’.

The book, which is styled as a self-help book, doles out advice about certain teachings on life through the eyes of the reader who is referred to as ‘you.’ Hamid uses the second person narrative technique in his novel and that makes it so unique. The reader cannot grasp the style of writing immediately and takes time to comprehend what the author is trying to explain.

The book begins with an unnamed self-help guru as the central character who explains how to become filthy rich in rising Asia. The main thematic concern is how the only way out of a life of impoverishment is to move to the city. The pivotal concern is the social instability-that of class hierarchy and inequality.

Hamid gives several rules to follow in order to become filthy rich. Ironic and layered with sarcasm, the rules are wicked and fraudulent as they point to the decadent society, corrupt to the core.

The first rule he states to change your destiny is to acquire education. Gaining knowledge will help build a solid foundation for a prosperous career. “Getting an education is a running leap towards becoming filthy rich in rising Asia. This is no secret.”

“There are forks in the road to wealth that have nothing to do with choice or desire or effort, but with chance.”

Hamid reverses his philosophy on how education will lead to prosperity, when he stresses upon good-luck and chance to be the driving forces behind accumulating wealth. He once again negates his own claim on the value of education.

The next rule on how to become rich is to not ‘fall in love.’

“As far as getting rich is concerned, love can be an impediment. Yes, pursuing love and pursuit of wealth have much in common. Both have the potential to inspire, motivate, uplift and kill.”

As the narrator falls in love with a neighborhood teenager, referred to as the ‘pretty girl’ he is left broken-hearted when she breaks the news that she is leaving to join the fashion industry.

Avoiding idealists is also a way forward to amassing wealth. The two ideals our society lacks are ‘advanced schooling’ and ‘rampant nepotism.’

Nowadays ideals don’t help. An example is how exam invigilators for a little amount of money are ‘willing to overlook neighborly cheating’ and that advanced education is only a privilege that the filthy rich can afford!

A self-help book has two essential components. ‘First, the help it suggests should be helpful. And second, the self it’s trying to help should have some idea of what help is needed.’

And it is here that the fourth rule comes in ‘to work for yourself.’ ‘Readers don’t work for writers.’ Readers read out of passion and not always for making money through the print media.

Hamid focuses on how it is important to learn from a ‘master.’ Who is a Master? One who is an experienced and skilled person who acts as a mentor and trains his novice. As a result, your career progresses gradually. You open a business of packaged water to prevent the spread of viral infections caused by the government’s local supply of water. You become rich and defeat your business rivals, making them go out of business.

The next rule is to ‘befriend a bureaucrat.’ The author states:

“But in Rising Asia, where bureaucrats lead, bankers follow, and so it is on befriending the right bureaucrat that your continued success critically depends.”

Hamid pinpoints on how bribery and nepotism are the key elements to attaining a stately fortune in Asia.

Hamid is nearing the end of the book. Your longing for the pretty girl heightens. She is now a full-fledged model. You marry a girl half your age, have a son and continue to grow your business.

As time passes, your business empire grows. Your son goes to America to study. Your marriage falls apart. Your business crumbles. Friends, allies, relatives turn against you. You suffer from 2 heart attacks and you shift to a hospital. Under such circumstances, what is the fundamental to follow tells Hamid? And I quote:

“The advice is unaffected by the loss of your wealth, since it applies to those of modest means too. And the advice is this. Focus on the fundamentals.”

And the fundamental to follow is love!

The only way forward is to reconnect with the pretty girl, who is now an old woman. You bring a romantic relationship with her, which was only to last a few years as she falls prey to cancer. All you have now is to wait on your deathbed. Your life is for death to reunite you with her in heaven.

The writer ends his book here. As the narrator lies on his deathbed, his entire life flashes before him. The only consolation he has is that he exits this world with a calmness and dignity that he preserved in his worldly life.

Hamid is a writer beyond bounds. Through his marvelous writing skills, he traverses the different issues of South Asia in a manner that is endearing and exciting.

Beenish Mahmood has a double Master's in English Literature with almost a decade of experience in magazine journalism. She is passionate about South Asian Fiction and environmental issues. She can be reached through email at