Behind the Beautiful Forevers

I am so sorry that late BBCT post of Feb. But here’s it now.

This month, we decided to read nonfiction. The Book Blogging Challenge Thingie is basically about broadening our reading horizons and since all three of us (Sam, Tanvi and I) are new to the genre of Nonfiction, we figured it would do us good to read that genre for Feb.

My BBCT book for the month of Feb was ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo.


The book cover


The blurb at Goodreads goes-

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting“ in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter — Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” — will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers  is about the lives of the residents of Annawadi. What I really liked about the book was that the author Katherine Boo had actually made a proper effort to get to know the characters so much so that when I finally checked out their pictures, they looked exactly like I had imagined them to. The book also gave me the feeling of actually walking around in their shoes for a bit. Of course I, being a spoilt brat from the high-rises of Mumbai, cannot even begin to fathom their lives. But I can surely say that the book remained with me.

For me, the book talked about the loss of childhood especially in the case of Abdul. Due to his father’s sickness, the responsibility of the family fell on the young shoulders of Abdul and this strikes me as being absolutely not fair. He deserved a childhood. I respect him a lot because he never cribbed and almost singlehandedly sustained their business. To actually have a successful business while being a teenager, no matter how small the business is, is something astounding. What if he had gotten a proper education? He could have really excelled.

How many such Abduls are losing out on opportunities?And then we crib about why India isn’t growing.

Another character I adored was Manju. I am  actually curious about what is happening in her life right now. She is smart, hard-working and just so terrific! She stayed with me after the story.

Asha was complex. I respect her. She did what she had to in order to survive-not only survive but thrive. Yes, what she did to Mr Kamble and others was wrong. There is no excuse for that. But Asha is a fighter.

BTBF did not show the slums or its residents as something pitiable. Annawadi was a community, a mini-city and an economy-all in one. BTBF showed the residents’ struggles, fortunes and misfortunes but it potrayed them as so human. We, the overcity people, tend to the slum-dwellers off. We don’t even wait to consider them as a part of the same species. BTBF taught me empathy.

The book also talked about corruption in India. I was aware of its presence but not the degree of it. Corruption is everywhere. It scares me. What future are we going to have if this continues?

Since it was a nonfictional book, it did seem to drag on at some point. But that could also be due to the fact that I am not accustomed to reading nonfiction. Nevertheless, I did get bored somewhere in between.

I rate the book 3.5/5 stars.

Have you read Behind the Beautiful Forevers? What do you think of it?

Also, check out Sam’s post on Seriously…I’m kidding here and Tanvi’s post here.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Finals, Heat and March wrap-up | Diary of an Introverted Schmuck

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