Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity!
I wanted to share an amazing, although sobering, book about a way of life you probably could never imagine – as the Author describes here:
“Abdul grabbed a fresh shirt and flew. Across the clearing, down a zigzag lane of huts, out onto a rubbled road. Garbage and Water Buffalo, slum-side. Glimmerglass Hyatt on the other. Fumbling with shirt buttons as he ran. After two hundred yards he gained the wide thoroughfare that led to the airport, which was bordered by blooming gardens, pretties of a city he barely knew.”
This “Wednesday Bookmobile” heads to India’s biggest city – with a powerful look at how people survive in this environment.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Katherine Boo takes you on a journey into one of the world’s largest slums – which is located just past Mumbai’s airport:
The book’s title references huge billboards that were put up along the side of the road leaving the airport – it read “The Beautiful Forevers”…and on the other side, hidden from visitor to Mumbai, was this:
“Behind The Beautiful Forevers!”
This 2012 book was the winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction – as the book’s website states:
“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.”
The website goes on to give more details on the intricate story that unfolds in the book:
“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.”
Katherine Boo tells a compelling true story that plays out as a real-life thriller…there are magical places to visit in India, but this isn’t one of them – and Boo captures what daily life is like in Mumbai’s notorious slums…
I love travel books, even when they take you to the underbelly of a country, and Boo’s book is ultimately a call to action – and the government has tried to solve this issue in the past, but it continues to be a huge problem for India…but they aren’t alone:
Iconic Travel Writer Paul Theroux has written several books about his journeys to Africa, but his last trip was his most dangerous of all:
Theroux taks you to the slums of Capetown South Africa and beyond, as he looks at how aid to Africa has actually made things worse….you can see more about this powerful book here:
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