BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS by Katherine Boo



BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS by Katherine Boo

Review by Ian Browne Shamrock News


Deservedly, this book has won awards Including the PULITZER PRIZE. Traversing the social landscape in the shadow of Mumbai’s modernising airport, Katherine Boo takes you into the lives of the folk of the Annawadi slum. Up for grabs is the struggle to make a quid as the world turns in favour of the wealthy. The cultural interactions, the squabbles, the deprivation, and the police corruption − the desperation when trying to sustain one’s work life while trying to avoid life stomping heads − the reader will be surprised as to just how difficult it is for this community to eke out a living.


Situated by a large sewage pond where pigs and water buffalo wallow, Annawadi is a monsoon-drenched slum originally inhabited by Tamil labourers sent to build the airport’s new runways. Here amongst the stench of decay, and a chorus of irreverent frogs, you are invited into the lives of Hindi and Muslim families, while hitting the pavement and climbing wire fences around the airport with young rubbish traders, and thieves.


“The smell of the one leg’s burning was fainter in the shed”


I’d like to suggest that through the hardship and labour of these slum folk that some honurable severance to sanctity springs to life. Well, in some instances luck does shine on the face of the poor. But generally speaking, this was written not to entertain, but to educate. And if you were to read this colourful saga while ignoring the author’s note, you’d expect this tale to be a work of fiction. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as author Boo’s job was to report back to the US media on matters concerning life within India’s impoverished communities. The characters within are real, the intensity of each moment occurring, true to life.


Though I have visited and written about Mumbai’s slums myself, I was heartened by the sheer determination of the community to persevere. However, I was saddened by those seemingly uncaring in their acknowledgment to other’s struggle, instead most turned a blind eye to the misery while they themselves were being dealt extraordinary pressure. I think the way the wheel of life turns in this slum will surprise many.


If you are not already ‘streetwise’, this book will get you there...


Boo in Mumbai sourced via Polis

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