The Silent Breeze

Be quiet for a while. Listen.

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Review Of Mohsin Hamid’s “How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia”

There are self-help books and there are self-help books written by Mohsin Hamid. That, probably, is the simplest and best way to describe, in a nutshell, the twelve guidelines laid down throughout the course of the book entitled How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia. Narrated in the second-person, every chapter forewarns the reader and sets expectations in terms of how much ‘help’ one can derive from this rather helpful (insert dollops of sarcasm) self-help book. The book puts forward a set of characters that are not larger-than-life and are able to sketch together a story that reverberates with the growth story in the sub-continent plus the very real pitfalls that come as an unnecessary but added bonus.

We are introduced to the protagonist of the story, a young boy born into the typical poor family’s home situated in one of the multitude of villages strewn across the geography of this part of the world. As is the general trend, he migrates to the big city, along with many other poor migrants, in search of a new gleaming future. Soon after, the element of love enters the boy’s life through the guise of a ravishing young woman who, on the other hand, is highly ambitious and wishes to leave the confines of poverty and make her mark in the world of glamour. Our protagonist is, of course, not someone whom you can write off as just another poverty-stricken drop in the ocean of poverty. He, too, starts working his way up the social ladder by tapping into the sleazy aspect of the purified water industry. Slowly and surely, both the guy and the girl rise up the social ladder and lead starkly different lives that intersect once in a blue moon and even though they do not see much of each other, there is an undercurrent of desire that links their destinies together. The boy goes onto become highly successful while the girl, too, sees her share of success. Eventually, the self-help book makes a transition into the negative yet very real aspect of the decline of fortunes that has plagued so many ambitious and successful people since time immemorial.  With things looking bleak for them as time marched on relentlessly, they rediscover an innate need for companionship and bonding that has remained practically dormant over the majority of their lifetime.

The book, in itself, is a mirror of the volatility of the uncontrollable and rapid pace of urbanization and modernization. This disease of volatility victimizes ambitious human beings who are in search of that elusive power that can be garnered only by becoming ‘filthy rich’. In that context, the title of the book is wrapped in a shimmering veil of sarcasm and thus, it sets the tone of the narrative that is to follow. The author puts across twelve seemingly simple steps which should be followed in order to become ‘filthy rich in rising Asia’. By the time the reader reaches the last quarter of the book, the sarcastic undertone of the larger picture becomes highly prominent and causes one to understand the fatality of this rather ambitious and apparently highly promising goal of the ‘self-help’ book. By not naming any of the characters and by painting pictures that the reader has no difficulty in conceptualizing, Hamid has tried to simultaneously connect the reader’s heartbeats with the rise and fall of the fate of the colourful characters and put forward a rather successful experiment in displaying the grounded reality of the Utopian aims of the average self-help book. In essence, it is a lesson in contradiction where the self-help book itself never really realizes in advocating the goal put forward in the beginning of the book. In short, the book is unconventional, grounded, experimental and contradictory or in other words, weirdly entertaining and, might I add, a tad educational.

My rating of the book is 8/10.


Published in Book Link, India (August, 2013)

Published in Book Link  (August, 2013)



The flimsy cup

Holds the dark liquid

Holds it



Disciplined… Even then…

The liquid beckons

The external darkness


By the lusting mouth

The momentary sinful union

Refreshing yet dark

Invigorating yet poisoned

The inviting skin

Hiding the negative

Society and its men


Of the carbonated desire

Review of Sid Bahri’s “The Homing Pigeons”

The varied contours of the element of love are brought out in a unique manner in Sid Bahri’s “The Homing Pigeons”.  The book evolves from the tale of two persons who are completely different from each other and yet develop a bond to a tale interspersed with the obstacles of social stigma which eventually play havoc with their minds and lives. The story, essentially a love story, delves into the disconnect between the past and the present. This disconnect or misalignment mutates from a seemingly inconspicuous independent factor to something that leaves an indelible mark on the characters’ lives. This is a microcosmic representation of a dilemma that the globalized Indian culture faces when its path crosses that of the older generations. The younger informed generation wants to go beyond what it construes to be mere rules and regulations of their cultures as the logical worth of these elements has degraded in their eyes. In terms of the story, the characters crave to bring to the fore the concept of love as being beyond rituals and customs. Their crusade is rudely interrupted when their elders choose to take the tried and tested path of their cultures. This interruption, in turn, causes heartbreaking decisions to be made which end up disorienting the romantic waves which, until then, flowed along harmoniously.

The inability to communicate fluidly the ravaging storm blowing in their minds was another stimulus to the growing of the vacuum between the two characters. This goes on to prove that assumptions and negative thought processes that inadvertently rise in the dark recesses of the mind end up catalyzing the erosion of the bond that had so seamlessly and purely developed in a short period of time.

Although the book primarily dwells on the making and breaking of love between the two protagonists, it directs our attention to certain blots in our history like the anti-Sikh riots. From a rosy setting, we are heralded into the murky happenings of the past and the gruesome murder of fellow Indians. An event such as this not only carves out a new rugged path in Aditya’s life, it leaves a deep cavity in his parents’ minds. Certain moments of indiscretion and hot-headedness caused disastrous cascading effects all over the nation. The ripple effects are still strong enough to be not ignored as was proven in the case of Aditya’s parents when he broached the topic of marriage with them.

The book fails to deliver when it comes to the love story in itself. Different thought processes get played out repetitively after certain intervals which causes certain lulls in the flow of the story. Apart from that, the building up of the dilemma in the two characters’ lives is very promising and when it finally reaches the peak, the final bang comes in the form of a whimper as the story ends quite abruptly with a strong utopian essence.  Although happy endings are quite welcome and leaves the reader with a positive aftertaste, the erasure of all wrongs and negativity in a perfectly harmonious fashion happens in the span of a handful of pages. From my perspective, I would have liked to relish the ending as I would like to slowly relish and explore the orgasmic delight of an exotic dessert. On the technical front, the book needs better editing.

All in all, the story is engrossing and the painting of the characters has been quite vivid along with the parallel elements of social constructs and a forgettable past.

My rating is a 6/10.

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