Sunday 15 April 2012

Behind the Beautiful Fovevers

Finished April 12
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, read by Sunil Malhotra.
This nonfiction book is a tale of the lives of the residents of a Mumbai slum, Annawadi, located near the Mumbai airport and near luxury hotels. Boo was inspired to tell about life in the slums after marrying a man from India. She picked Annawadi because of its size, one small enough to go around and talk to all the residents. Her research took three years and the lives of many of the residents change significantly during that time. We see the struggle to survive, the daily living conditions, the jealousies and rivalries, the corruption both between residents and at police and government levels. Money equals prosperity and everyone is trying to get ahead, and get a better life. Some use substances that help them escape from their lives, and some take it out on their families. Boo spends a lot of time here describing two families. 
One is a Muslim family, where the father has health issues that force the oldest boy, Abdul into the role of family provider. The situation also forces the mother into a less subservient role that is typical of Muslim women. The family recycles garbage, paying other garbage collectors by weight for their gatherings. When a fight with a neighbour women results in drastic actions by the women, the family's creep upward is stalled and reversed. 
The other Hindi family also has a strong women at the head, Asha. Asha sets her sights on politics, with the first step gaining the status of slumlord for Annawadi. She curries favors, accepts and pays bribes, settles disputes and makes enough to send her daughter to college. 
An ongoing story that brings the existence of the lowest class in India to light and shows how the system doesn't work for them, and how they are viewed by those above. 
Fascinating and heartrending.

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