Nick Richardson writes:
‘You watch your mother slice up a lengthy white radish and boil it over an open fire. The sun has banished the dew, and even unwell as you are, you no longer feel cold.’ The following day, despite your illness – you have hepatitis E; ‘its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral’ – your parents take you and your older brother and sister from your village to live in the city, ‘the first step to getting filthy rich in rising Asia’. You finish school, unlike your siblings, who drop out and get jobs to help support the family. You fall in love with ‘a pretty girl’ who leaves you and the city to pursue a successful modelling career. At university you fall in with a crowd of sinister, bearded ‘idealists’, who advise you to take your mother to their hospital when she falls ill; but their doctor tells you ‘you should pray’ and your mother dies, so you ‘ask a wrinkled old man with hennaed hair and a cut-throat razor finally to give you a shave’.