Patel's 'Poverty is Greatness', a must-read

HARARE - Motivational books come in different forms, styles and shapes.

They also emerge from various inspirations.

Nobody really wishes to be poor but usually fate deploys humanity there.

There are so many brilliant young men and women who excelled in school but could not continue with their education due to financial constraints within their families.

In olden times, there used to be bursaries and scholarships that could see such talented young people through their education until they realised their dreams.

In writing Poverty is Greatness, Sanjay Patel hopes the book “brings to you the blessings of poverty and what it can do for you if taken with the right attitude; securing a place for you amongst the greats of our world”.

However, the first thing that readers are likely to have issues with before they read is Sanjay’s weird choice of title, which sounds paradoxical. Questions will obviously emerge as to how “poverty” can be “greatness”. The two are contradictory and do not seem to agree at all.

Perhaps it begins to make sense when one reads through the 65-page book that the writer looks at how poverty pushes someone to work hard until they finally achieve greatness.

There are so many practical examples around us in real life of people who started off from unbelievably humble beginnings but have gone on to become part of the list of the “who is who” of the world.

In his own words, Sanjay says; “I am liked because I am blunt and that is the same reason I am disliked, but I am successful because I can cut through nonsense quickly and get to the core of things....I relish putting time and energy into digging below the surface of a problem and coming up with unique and effective answers.” (p11)

Sanjay begins by trying to unravel what poverty is. In doing so, he pushes his readers back in time to examine their own past to see whether what they went through then would not fit the definition of poverty.

He brings his own experiences to the fore; “In the 15 years I was in that world, for each of those years, I had gruesome experiences. Getting up to no breakfast at all; fasting a full day only to be eating one meal a day; being lazy; unproductive and miserable due to an environment and the conditions obtaining in such an environment; everyone around me criticising me; never ever being able to smile, cursing my parents for such a life; even going to the thoughts of committing suicide; always asking if our Lord ever existed.” (p16)

The state of the economy, according to Sanjay could fuel this “cruel fate”.

For Sanjay, there is no way one can change their earlier station in life because they are thrust there by their parents. However, he then argues that people must have the capacity to take responsibility for changing their conditions. If this initiative does not exist, the tragedy is that change may not occur.

“Poverty often leads to accepting conditions as they exist, and to never think of accepting responsibility for changing them, hence the reason why poverty is a major global problem. It is only when we stop dwelling on the negative factors that life throws at us in the form of poverty, that we then realise the other upside of poverty and so treat it as a blessing to us all.”

Therein lies Sanjay’s line of thought. He feels the onus is on us to push ourselves out of poverty. Probably what makes the book refreshing is that it targets all age groups — the young and the old — as it carries valuable lessons they can pick from.

For a country that seems to be shrouded in uncertainty, Sanjay’s book gives the individual not only hope in an environment of desolation but encourages them to pick themselves up from their current needy state in pursuit of greatness.

The writer makes the reader very optimistic. It gives him the urge to look forward for a breakthrough as long as they exert themselves enough.

Sanjay was born in Harare on September 2, 1992. He attended Westridge Nursery, Primary and High schools. He has previously worked in the media relations department at Zimbabwe Cricket before getting into sales and marketing.

When reading through Poverty is Greatness one gets the sense that it is coming from someone who is over 50.

It only serves to show that the book comes from someone who is principled and goal-oriented.

Perhaps the personal experiences during his over 15 years of poverty have whetted his appetite to give a hand in the realisation of community and national development.

*Reviewed by Eddie Zvinonzwa
Poverty is Greatness; By Sanjay B Patel, Harare, Develop Books, 2014. 65 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7974-6014-0 (Paperback)

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