Behind the Beautiful Forevers-Katherine Boo: Review


This is one of those books that will probably leave you devastated. After you are done reading, you will think about it for long. It is a well-known fact- Mumbai slums are ghastly, life is grim in those garbage strewn makeshift houses of the not so fortunate. Turning the pages of this impeccably done book, you experience an upsurge of emotions, you are angry, instigated, bewildered, disturbed, all at the same time.

Boo spent three years among the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of more than 300 tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai’s International Airport. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a result of thorough investigation and research. There are times when you hope that Boo made up the story but unfortunately what the books tells is the grotesque truth.

Abdul, an enterprising young Muslim Annawadian, the only major earner of his family, makes a living out of sorting garbage. He along with sister and father is convicted in a crime that was never committed by them. What comes next for this family is a despairing tale of court trails, the mother Zehrunisa has to face the apathy of government officials and police. She pays of a major chunk of their lifetime earnings in bribes to get the three bailed out.

Asha- is upcoming and undeclared slumlord, she comes from the rural Maharashtra with dreams to fly higher than the sky.With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl“-Manju—will soon become its first female college graduate. Asha finds her niche in political corruption and is successful in her ultimate endeavor.

Boo tragically showcases the end of many young lives in the slum, Manju’s best friend, Meena consumed rat poison, so did Sanjay, a young man beaten up by police. Very often dead bodies are discovered near the slum, nobody cares who they are, nobody identifies those bodies. Diseases like Tuberculosis are stated as the causes of these deaths. The truth remains unknown.

Behind the beautiful forevers is a spectacular work of reportage and gives the most illuminating insight in the lives of India’s poor, their ambitions, their struggles and sacrifices. Apart from being the a good work of reporting, Boos also tells the story incredibly well.

“A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught”

There is a lot to digest after finishing this, Boo puts everything very emphatically, a must read for anyone who cares about the slums and its dwellers around the country.


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