This book is hilarious and it grabs you from the first line. “The first kidnapping wasn’t my fault. The others—those were definitely me.”
In How to Kidnap the Rich, Ramesh Kumar tells the tale of his chaotic, surreal life. Ramesh started out as a poor kid in Old Delhi, selling tea at his abusive dad’s stall. He escaped this miserable world by passing exams for less intelligent, rich people.
All goes well until he sits an exam for Rudi—and ends up coming top. As “the topper” Rudi becomes an instant celebrity, with Ramesh as his “manager”.
Rudi makes heaps of money from advertising products and from starring in a TV game show. But his arrogance and wealth makes him, and by association Ramesh, targets for other rich and very powerful people.
Having been accused of being undercover Pakistani intelligence agents, sparking riots, their answer is kidnapping. “It was a simple, suicidal plan,” says Ramesh. “But when a whole country is against you, what else can you do?”
Ramesh is a really likeable character and you end up rooting for him. But Rudi is also very well-drawn. At first we get the impression he’s just another spoilt rich kid. But as the book progresses, we see other sides to him.
Underneath the bravado, Rudi is vulnerable and suffers from the knowledge that people are only interested in him for his fame and fortune, not for himself. I thought it was great that ultimately Rudi redeems himself.
The book makes plenty of comments on class, inequality and corruption. It’s great political satire.
There’s a hilarious section where Rudi and Ramesh are on the run in disguise, and their hostage is kidnapped by someone else.
In the process of trying to reclaim him, sari-clad Rudi nearly falls onto an electric rail track.
“How ignominious that would have been, how perplexing the news,” reflects Ramesh. “Rudraksh Saxena’s blackened body in women’s clothes, and in east Delhi of all places, what a terrible ending for a multimillionaire.”
The ending is a little weak—like a rushed attempt to tie up loose ends. But it’s still a brilliant book.
I was reminded of A Confederacy of Dunces, a brilliant, laugh-out-loud tale of one man’s bizarre life.
How to Kidnap the Rich is fast-paced, witty and surreal, and seems to always have another outlandish twist around the corner.