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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Hardcover – February 7, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a world where whole families live in cardboard shacks where sewage runs raw after storms, education is mostly nonexistent and the worst forms of corruption is everywhere. Here we meet the real people in the area - the young boy who scavenges scrap metal, a woman who tries to be political and the one college student who hopes for a brighter future. We also learn about the diseases that disable people and the compromises made just in order to put some food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. And then there is the endemic corruption. The police are paid little and depend on graft to make a living. expect to collect it whenever they can. Hospitals are filthy stink holes. And members of the community are so afraid of getting involved that they will let a man with a broken leg lie in the street for several days until he eventually dies.
The book is so well written that it brought me into the hearts and minds of these people who live in the shadow of a luxury hotel and an expanding airport. In spite of their poverty they have learned to be resourceful and struggle along the best they can.
The book reads like a novel. And, in a way I sure wish it was. It is just too painful to realize that this is all real. Hopefully, its publication will help to make a difference.
The book succeeds because it lacks sympathy - which is a good thing. The girls, boys, men, women are fully-realized people, not cariactures of "poor, pathetic Indians." In an author's Q+A, Boo says conveying that was important to her, and she did succeed. So the narrative is harsh, depressing, uncompromising, and sad - but it's uplifting, because the girls, boys, and adults in Boo's book are going to keep on living the best they can. They aren't begging for my or your help - they're getting up in the morning and doing what they can do to make it through each day, though some don't make it. I felt like I learned about their individual stories and lives, and about the Mumbai slums - a place I'll never see - at least a little bit, and without being preached at.
The details came from Boo's close observations of events she witnessed, and hundreds of interviews after the fact. An argument could be made, "how reliable could interviews with slumdwellers be?" Well, how reliable are you, when somebody asks about your life? People are people, and I'm sure once they got to used to Boo's presence, they liked having somebody new to talk to. I've embedded with the military as a journalist, and after a few days even soldiers who dislike the media stop seeing reporters as the "press," and as just another guy. I'm sure it was the same here.Read more ›
videotaping, finding records, and hanging around until she was just part of
the environment. She makes herself invisible, not injecting her presence,
which I really enjoyed. Her point of view is clear, however.
The people in these slums are mostly from other states in India
besides Maharasthra, where Bombay is located, and many are either of the
untouchable caste, or Muslim. Rather than forming a community to try
to fight to survive and prosper, the adults fight among themselves,
trying to cheat and steal from each other. The young people seem less
vicious and corrupt, as they have more hope and less understanding of
how calamities can come out of nowhere, just as things seem to be
getting better, and tear everything down again. The police, the local
government, and the poor people are alike in their corruption,
demanding money from the desperate to fix things. The lack of
compassion and any sense of justice was distressing. The condition
of the women and girls was horrible. A serial killer may have been
picking off garbage scavenger boys, but the police record their
deaths as being from illness, so they don't have to bother looking
for a killer.
Children are not allowed by law to work, even if that's the only way they can
eat. The law is only enforced as a way for the police to extort money
from them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An awesomely tragic commentary of our times. It's like knowing the slums exist and simply a blemish on the landscape of Mumbai but Boo actually peeled back the veil. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Mary J. Johnson
In-depth, caring and loving portrayal of a difficult existence in the slums but complex lives of its inhabitants.Published 9 days ago by Rnnyhoff
Not something I normally would have picked up, but was a Book Club pick and it really pulled me in. Really interesting, eye opening, and well written.Published 14 days ago by TS
An excellent book. I finished it thinking this was a great novel and then realized it was a true story which blue my mind.Published 21 days ago by Steven Brownstone
Wonderful tale of poverty in a Mumbai slum and how Indias efforts at social change while well meaning often go awray.Published 23 days ago by Joni M. Cherbo