“What you don’t want is always going to be with you
What you want is never going to be with you
Where you don’t want to go, you have to go
And the moment you think you’re going to live more, you’re going to die”
― Katherine Boo,
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a non-fiction book written by Katherine Boo in 2012. The book describes life in Annawadi slum close to Mumbai airport. This was a really difficult read for me because human suffering is so terrifying. Imagine not just picking garbage to make a living but also being constantly hungry or suffering of tuberculosis or some other serious epidemic.
“Being terrorized by living people seemed to have diminished his fear of the dead”
― Katherine Boo,
This book reads like a novel and it is so troublesome to think that this is not fiction. You don’t want to believe the things in this book. Of course, I know there are plenty of slums in the world and I’ve watched many documentaries, however it’s always a bit more real, a bit more personal with books like this. Everyone has their own story and we all should hear them, that is the approach Boo uses in her book.
There’s a lot of life, there’s a lot of death and then there’s a lot of hope. People want to break out from slum life. Book tells a story of Abdul who provides for his family by picking up garbage, Manju who wants to graduate from college, her “slumlord” mother Asha and so many other people. I guess what shocked me the most beside the poverty was the level of corruption. Corrupt police officers and politicians don’t really surprise me but doctors? Hospitals? It’s a logical path but you’d think Hippocratic Oath has some significance. Indian politics also surprised me… people in Annawadi are not considered as poor officially. Seriously. I don’t even want to know what is considered under poverty line in India…
What I liked the most about this book were the thoughts I think. We all think in an unique way and also different life circumstances make us think differently about life. Like the quote I picked before previous paragraph about water and ice, such a beautiful and sad thought. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a good, very touching and informative read, however I didn’t like the way this book almost had a plot. I felt like the narrative style would have worked better if there would have been just one character but now it seemed a bit like all over the place somehow. Then, I got the humanity point of view but I really did not get the full picture almost like the story was left unfinished which shouldn’t happen with nonfiction.
“It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.”― Katherine Boo,
What do you think?