Daily Archives: April 14, 2013

Book Review: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid Title: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 9780670086375
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Mohsin Hamid’s books are biting and raw in their nature of storytelling. Nothing is rosy and that his readers are aware of. Nothing is sugar-coated. He tells it the way it is and maybe that is why his readers like reading what he has to write. Hamid writes about the society, the way he sees it. Whether it is a story of a young man in love in his first book to a fundamentalist born out of probably no choice in his second to his latest offering, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia”, which is as raw and vicious as the other two.

The book is unusual in its writing and plot. It is a satire on the society told fictionally, through a self-help book format, with twelve rules in place on how to get filthy rich in rising Asia. It is the story of a young boy (unnamed but of course), born into a poor family. As he moves on from the village to a slum in the unnamed big city, his hopes and aspirations rise. He wants to be the very best. He wants to be rich and nothing else beyond that. As he rises through the success ladder, and sets up a bottled water factory, he realizes that everything but of course comes for a price. At the end of it all, there is one thing that remains constant in his life: His teenage love – he can never forget and yearns for all the time and all those years. The book is all about his life and the people in his life and the consequences of wanting to get “filthy rich” in rising Asia.

That in short is the plot of the book. The writing being sarcastic is highly humorous and at the same time leaves you with a sense of sadness as you turn the pages. Mohsin Hamid’s writing is strong and packed with punches and surprises in almost every chapter. The reality of the situation is seen and at the same time, it tends to get boring at a couple of places, given the repetitive start to every chapter, which is that of a self-help book.

“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” is a short book and yet touches on the complexities of living and surviving in big cities. It portrays the paradoxes that lie in “Rising Asia” and its impact on the so-called “class” system that exists. Like I said, Hamid does not shy away from saying and seeing things the way they are. The book is highly entertaining and also thought-provoking to a very large extent. A perfect read for a Sunday afternoon.

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Book Review: On Being Different: What it Means to be a Homosexual by Merle Miller

On Being Different by Merle Miller Title: On Being Different: What it Means to be a Homosexual
Author: Merle Miller
Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN: 9780143106968
Genre: Non-Fiction, Gay, Gender Studies, Essay
Pages: 74
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I remember the time I came out to my family. I had to. There was no other way. I could not live the way I was. Almost a double life. It does not work this way and it should not. I did not want to go through having to lie every time I had to step out or make any random excuse. More than this I guess, I wanted to live my life on my own terms. I did not know how it would be at eighteen though. Today I know better and also am aware that maybe our country has miles to go before homosexuality is accepted in all walks of life, without looking at it as something “queer” or “odd” or “different”. We think we are okay with it. We almost would like to believe it. The story is however different. There are so many friends I know of who would never want their children to be gay. They cannot fathom that and they are okay with me being who I am. Which makes me think: Are they really okay? Would they even let me close to their children? And it was at this time, I read a book which made perfect sense to me and was a right read at that time – “On Being Different” by Merle Miller.

At the same time, it was not easy for the gay community back in the 70s, living in the United States of America. It was looked down upon. People were losing their jobs if out of the closet. There were no gay rights to speak of. In short, it was either treated as something that did not exist or something that existed but more as a mental disease than love between same genders. Merle Miller, an American writer, and journalist then decided to retaliate against an article written by Joseph Epstein for Harper’s Magazine called, “The Struggle for Sexual Identity”, in which Epstein publicly lashed out against homosexuals. Miller did not understand the article and why the hatred against homosexuals. He wrote an article in retaliation titled, “What it Means to Be a Homosexual” for the New York Times. It later became a book called “On Being Different”, with a forward by Dan Savage and an afterword by Charles Kaiser, which I have just finished reading.

I did not love the book because I am gay and I have to love it because it is about gay people or gay rights. I loved it because it was honest. It came from a place which everyone has been to – a place of alienation, of wanting to fit in and at the same time on their own terms, to be treated as equals with the same rights for all, and that to me is primary in any civilized set-up. Miller’s essay is so relevant to the society I live in. He talks of how his straight friends do not want their children to mingle with gay people, in the fear that they might be seduced and lured. He speaks of the atrocities in an angry tone and at the same time speaks of changes that need to occur. It was very difficult for me to imagine that this was written in the 70s, when challenges surrounding gay rights were abound. Teenage gay boys were committing suicide instead of coming out to their parents. They were scared. There was no one to turn to. Miller with his essay made people see the reality of the situation. Gay-Straight Alliances were set up and slowly and steadily changes came about in the United States of America.

The writing of the essay is razor sharp and sparse. Everything is said in about 30 pages or so. There were times while reading the book, I was thinking of my life. I have gone through my own share of ridicule for being gay, for perhaps walking and talking in the manner I used to, for thinking about men the way I did, and of course for never expecting a straight man to understand how I felt. At the same time, I also believed at the end of reading this book, that everyone should read this essay. Just to understand how we sometimes unintentionally or intentionally mock something or some people who are different. How maybe it is time differences are embraced and we learn to co-exist. After all, love knows no gender. People’s minds on the other hand are a different story. “On Being Different” is just that – an essay, a meditation on accepting differences, without prejudices, without any judgments, because maybe the time is right.

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