Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo gives a horrifying look inside one of Mumbai India’s most poverty-stricken slums. Prepare yourselves for sadness, anger, grief, helplessness, and a bit of joy, but not in the way you’d expect. Published in 2014, the events that take place occurs between 2007 through 2011. In a time when India is modernizing, the question remains of what will happen to hosting almost one third of the world’s poorest citizens. I honestly had doubts about this book prior to starting. I didn’t believe I’d enjoy it as much as I did, and as a testament to that, I completed it within a day and a half. This piece of narrative nonfiction work by Katherine is so smooth that one can literally forget that it’s actually nonfiction!
Innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags. - Abdul
Part of why this book is such a smooth read is due to the small cast of characters the author decided to take center stage. What I had expected was a book where the author would go on and on, spewing stats and stats on how bad the slums in India can get. That or nonstop comparisons between the slums and normal communities around the world, or random interviews with slum dwellers around India. Instead, the author made this personal by focusing on characters like Abdul and Asha’s families, along with several other kids. When scavenging for trash is your main source of income for the majority of the dwellers in the Annawadi slum, it’s hard to see how survival is even possible. Yet, they do, if only barely. Against the backdrop of an airport along with luxurious and ritzy hotels, the author begins the story that most people wouldn’t have bothered of learning.
“For some time I tried to keep the ice inside me from melting. but now I’m just becoming dirty water, like everyone else.” - Abdul
My only regret is not having read this book earlier. It highlights a problem that technically can never be fully resolved. A problem that every government will vow to help with but, regardless of anything that is actually done, will never seem enough to many. The complex problem of poverty is one that doesn’t have a quick answer to, as highlighted by the author and the stories presented here. It serves to remind us that we should never take anything for granted and that regardless of how bad our day went, know that thousands and millions of others have it a lot worst. Thank you, Katherine Boo for writing this important piece of work.