Sunday, 16 June 2013

How to get filthy rich in rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

It was just a coincidence that I saw the movie The Great Gatsby when I was in Seattle recently  and read Mohsin Hamid's "How to get filthy rich in rising Asia  when I returned to Lucknow in India.I had read  Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby  about a few years  earlier, and finished it with some sad sense of ending .The novel , the movie both are great .Mohsin Hamid 's book did remind me of Gatsby, and at many levels , it evoked similar feelings in  .The book is about the rise and fall of the protagonist("You") in an Asian city..He succeeds in bringing about  the flavour of a  typically Asian city and people through his work.
                  Self-help books are very popular among  poor but ambitious boys and girls in Asia. Mohsin has shaped his novel  around this frame , and has created a riveting story of a poor ,boy based in a rural area of  rising  Asia .He  traces his journey of becoming filthy rich as a  corporate tycoon, controlling a  huge , sprawling business of supplying bottled  drinking water .His  quest  for wealth and love go together.The Pretty girl , on whom our nameless hero  has consistently set eyes till the very end , also learns how girls become rich and famous in rising Asia .Their paths cross several times , each pursuing  individual  ambition to be rich , still loving each other , till  in their twilight , they  live together , till  they  reach their end , one after another .There are only three persons to attend the funeral of the Pretty girl , and  later , about the same number for our hero.
              The book has 228 pages and 12 chapters.Each chapter  is based on a lesson in self-help;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 artists of war;Dance with debt;Focus on the fundamentals;Have an exit strategy.The hero is "You". No character is named .The characters are addressed like pretty girl , politician , bureaucrat implying that there could be one or more such persons you may come across in daily life in rising Asia.But let us be clear :by no stretch of imagination , it is a self-help book .It is only that the protagonist is a struggling  ,ambitious  youth in rising Asia .The book is a first rate literary novel , based on this format of 12 self-help rules .The result is a book which is a thousand times more powerful than any self-help book could ever be.(In all honesty , I am not against  reading self-help books .I am not one of those who make fun of those who read self-help books .But literary books are obviously a class apart , and no self-help book can ever come near any of these .
                      The book contains many instances of sacrifice of morality when a  poor , rural youth is determined to be rich fast enough in rising Asia .These are dark sides of  system, which need the attention of all of us , young and old , men and women alike.We need to  provide in rising Asia clean opportunities  , incentives and systems for our youth to rise, earn  and achieve.
                            It is  an extremely well written book of fiction which stays with us long after we have read it. .I strongly recommend you to read it .

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

In Good Faith . .A journey in search of an unknown India

This book describes a journey across India by the author in search of her own identity and the identity of India she can identify with .During this journey , she frequently comes across people   whose behaviour and practices  challenge  the  commonly held  notions of what it means to be a Hindu or a Muslim in India.As a result , she discovers an India in far away , little places where  followers of the two religions find a common God, a  building  which is both a temple and a dargah. She discovers little islands  where  diverse, multiple religions coexist ,providing the evidence of unity and a  strong counter to fundamentalism .She discovers dialogues and voices which  indicate  that India has a tradition of unity and religious tolerance which goes back to many centuries.
                     The book "In Good Faith  . . A journey in search of an unknown India" by Saba Naqvi  , published in 2012 by Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd , has191 pages , and is a racy read .It is essentially a book  about an honest , unbiased and long search for identity .Having worked in Uttar Pradesh as an IAS officer for 32 years and in Moradabad as District Magistrate from 1991 to 1994, I found the author  struggling  to search for answers to similar  questions which often  have  occupied my mind  too.That is why , I find these accounts of journeys by the author very authentic.In a state which is often  plagued by the virus of religion and caste, this book comes like a fresh breeze.Such books inspire confidence between the two communities and must be read by all  the administrative and police officers who have a major role in the governance   as also the  people interested in understanding the traditions of inter-faith harmony and peace .
                                                            There is  always a scope for self-doubt when we see instances of religious intolerance .I quote:"The truth was that , somewhere along the way , I had  also begun to doubt the work itself.That's why it took me so long to give it a serious shape.Having collected the material over several years , I became a non-believer. . . . But somewhere down the line , I knew I had to keep some idealism alive.Over the years , i would periodically return to this project that , in some sense, represented an India I would like to believe in, a culture I wanted to survive.I struggled with my own scepticism about it being categorised as romantic mush to deem that it was worth my while and indeed, a valuable contribution to put down all the material I had collected and knock it into some sort of a sensible shape."I find this self -doubt very real and natural .In fact , this self-doubt  gives this book a touch of authenticity .A parallel self-doubt comes when as a civil servant I struggle with my scepticism and retain my faith that honest governance is still possible , when I see in  some  civil servants   glimpses of honest courage and willingness to pay the price for the cause of truth.The book by  Saba Naqvi gives hope and faith on several planes.
                           The author says that each chapter has the attention span of a journalist sniffing out a story and not the rigour of an academic .To my mind , this is one major strength of the book .Had it been written by an academic , it would have lost  some of its readability and impact .The book covers the journeys to places in  12 states  of West Bengal ,, Maharashtra,,Andhra Pradesh,Orissa,Tamil Nadu,,Kerala,,Rajasthan,Uttar Pradesh,Assam,Karnataka,Manipur,Kashmir and Bollywood. The book has rightly highlighted the positive impact of Sufi movement and Bhakti movement  on both Hinduism and Islam .
                               Despite all instances  strifes  and  communal  disharmony in India , the stories described in the book give "glimmer of hope".I recommend you to read this book to understand the  religious and  cultural diversity and unity of India.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

World Environment Day . June5,2013

Happy  WorldEnvironment Day .
Let us take a pledge  not to waste food.
 (June 5,2013)