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23 April 2015

Being filthy rich

Being filthy rich

"Why not spend £35 million on one big day out?" The Daily Telegraph on Manoj's growing property empire, 2005.

Manoj Raithatha had it all. A booming property business, a picture-book family and the power to shape his destiny. His was a life to envy. Then his professional and personal worlds were shattered. The 2008 financial crisis devastated his business and a sudden illness threatened his son's life. His hollow foundations exposed, Manoj found himself utterly dependent on the prayers of others and the help of a previously unknown God.

What happened next would forever change his life and the lives of all his family. Morally bankrupted by greed and selfishness, Manoj would have to build his life and marriage anew with different foundations.

How did you get filthy rich?

Though many would have described me as having achieved that particular goal, I can't say that I ever quite got to that place of describing myself as 'filthy rich'. For me, being 'filthy rich' meant more than possessing a large property portfolio and a house in the country. I wanted it all;the fancy cars, house staff and a humungous family home. And so in my opinion, I still had a long way to go. I had made money my God. My trade was buying off-plan property at a discount and selling it on for a profit. With the rising house prices of the early 2000, I had quickly moved from buying small numbers to buying whole blocks of apartments.

When did it start to go wrong?

I had quickly brushed aside any fear of a recession in a major feature article in the property section of the Daily Telegraph in 2005. I felt invincible. Land was in short supply. The demand for property was rising. The future was bright. The future was Manoj! But in 2008 I was forced to accept how wrong I had been as the credit crunch brought my property company crashing down. I had bought some 900 off-plan apartments and sold them onto investors. With limited mortgage finance for my investors to access I found myself in the firing line of a queue of ruthless creditors demanding their money. My business never went bust, but we were stripped of most of our cash. The impact on my family was brutal.

Tell us how you came to know God?

As the credit crunch of 2008 set in, my two-year-old son also became severely ill. He had been hospitalised on many occasions with breathing difficulties. We knew the drill: A &E and the nebuliser. But this time the nebuliser failed to work. With his breathing getting laboured, he was rushed into resuscitation where he stopped breathing and was intubated to keep him alive. Transferred to St Thomas', the ensuing days were the hardest days of my life. But my wife and I were strengthened by the continuous prayers of a Christian couple and on the fourth day my son suddenly bolted upright in bed. We had witnessed a miracle. A few weeks later I went to church to thank the Christian couple for their prayers, only to find myself giving my life to Jesus a few weeks later.

How has your life changed?

In that single moment of committing my life to Jesus everything changed. My wife didn't recognise me as my relentless focus on money was quickly replaced with a desire to share the message of God's love with others. My line of work also quickly changed. Though I am still involved in property, this was on a much smaller scale with the majority of my week serving in the South Asian Forum team at the Evangelical Alliance and Instant Apostle Christian publishing house. I still can't get over the fact that God not only saved a wretched sinner like me, but gives me the privilege to serve Him in two very distinct ministries.

What message would you like people to take from this book?

Having been in that place of having had considerable wealth, I wanted to write a book that reveals that it is not all cracked up to be. That life's true meaning is found not in worldly desires but in Christ alone;a crucial message to a world chasing money, success and fame. In Filthy Rich I have also deliberately allocated time to unpack some of the initial questions I grappled with about the Christian faith, such as: Why do Christians say Jesus is the only way to God? Is Jesus God? Isn't Christianity a Western religion? In that sense my hope is that the book will be read by Christians who then prayerfully pass it on to those from other faith backgrounds, as well as those of no faith, in the hope that their questions too will be answered.

Filthy Rich is up for an award at the Speaking Volumes Christian Book Awards 2016You can register your vote here.

Filthy Rich is published by Lion Hudson (paperback £8.99). It is available from Christian bookshops and on-line retailers.