BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS: LIFE, DEATH, AND HOPE IN A MUMBAI UNDERCITY
Katherine BooRandom House,
February 12, 2012
288 pp, 978-1400067558
Sixteen year old Abdul is a collector of garbage, an astute teenager who makes a success of his trade. He deals and competes for small economic gains in the Annadawi slum. Located just beyond the financial capital of Mumbai, it is owned by the Airports Authority of India, yet travelers heading toward the international terminal are greeted by a concrete wall of sunny yellow. A corporate slogan weaves along the wall, “Beautiful Forever Beautiful Forever Beautiful Forever, yet the irony is what is just on the other side.
Abdul’s younger brother Mirchi says it best:
“Everything around us is roses, and we’re the shit in between.”
Katherine Boo reports the uncomfortable truth that several families must endure in the Undercity. The three thousand residents belong to all castes and sub-castes, Muslims, Hindus and the untouchables. They live in 335 huts that sit atop a landscape of slushy waste, toxic debris, unimaginable combinations of obnoxious odors, offal and filth laden with disease. Despite the pervasive dangers and keen competition, Abdul has acquired more than most, and his family’s future appears to be on the rise, but will this trend continue?
Survival is key with the hope that one day life will be better. Abdul has a theory for prosperity that speaks more to the randomness of his fate.
“It seemed to him fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.”
Katherine Boo details everyday life, the repulsiveness, squirmy truth and the desperation of those who live in the Mumbai Undercity. She shares what she has witnessed in her book as she follows the lives of several families. Imagine living in this environment, let alone having to pay rent to a slumlord who oversees the residents small space carved out amid the detritus. The author manages to show the sorrowful sadness that divides the squalor of slum against the economic gains India has acquired as part of our borderless global community. She is sensitive and frank with objectivity, although I imagine her subjectivity was hard to curtail. Without hiding behind the airport wall of shining yellow, Katherine Boo reveals the inhumanity and suffering that the people endure and despite the odds, somehow survive. Katherine Boo has received meritorious praise and notable awards, which as readers will discover, are well deserved Thanks to the author for writing an unforgettable book. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, is a reflective book with global appeal, heartfelt and insightful with a promise to linger long after the end.
DISCLOSURE: I PURCHASED THE KINDLE EDITION OF THIS BOOK.
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