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The central figure of the story is Abdul, a Muslim teenager, with an innovative mind full of aspirations, ideals, and beliefs. In the light of India’s flourishing progress, he owns a heart filled with hopes and dreams for a better future. Dwelling in one of the slums of Mumbai, Abdul sees his goldmine in the sale of recyclable trash discarded by the wealthy populace of the city.
During a period of global recession, when the country is inflicted by terror and religious and economic oppression, the erroneous murder charges against Abdul and his subsequent arrest are only trivial, hackneyed events. The shocking disparity between the rich and the poor are outlined very graphically, as one set of people lie ensconced in the most luxurious settings of international hotels, while on the very same street, another set of people struggle to survive the dire levels of hygiene in their surroundings.
The tale of Abdul’s life and those of other helpless people in the novel betray the truths behind the veil of globalization. In a country screaming for freedom from corruption, these wretched souls find that the doors of corruption are their only means to freedom. As Katherine narrates the poignant tales of these slum inhabitants, it is heartrending to note that even in this completely hopeless impasse, they still foster dreams for a better future.
Released in 2012, Behind The Beautiful Forevers has been acclaimed for its extensive factual evidence, and it has a received positive response worldwide. Belonging to the genre of fiction, the book is written in a narrative style, which gives a personal touch to an otherwise factual documentary.
About the Author
Katherine Boo is a multi-award-winning journalist, whose works are mainly concerned with America’s underprivileged people.
Apart from The Beautiful Forevers, Boo has also written New York City: Random House.
Katherine writing is said to be compelling and yet intimate, and her novel is fast paced and candid. Her dedication to helping society can be seen in her vastly researched work, which has won her numerous awards.
Katherine Boo was born on August 12, 1964, and grew up in Washington D.C. Although of Swedish origin, she was raised in America when her father became an aide to the U.S. Representative, Eugene McCarthy. She married Sunil Khilnani, the director of the India Institute at King’s College, and also a professor of politics. Boo embarked on her journalistic career after graduating summa cum laude from Barnard College.
She started out with editorial positions at Washington’s City Paper and then went on to writing for The Washington Monthly and later The Washington Post. In 2000, the Pulitzer judges recognized her work to be the chief factor to induced reforms to the homes of the mentally retarded and awarded her the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Her article on social justice, After Welfare, won the Sidney Hillman Award in 2002. After having contributed to The New Yorker for two years, she joined its staff in 2003 and won The National Magazine Award for her article, The Marriage Cure, which was a portrayal of Oklahoma’s endeavors to educate the underprivileged populace about the benefits of marriage.
|Publisher||Penguin Books India|
|Number of Pages||280 Pages|
|Awards||National Books Awards winner|
Katherine Boo's first book "Beyond the Beautiful Forever" rises beyond journalism as it follows the life of a group of youngsters for a while in a slum called Annawadi near Mumbai's Sahar airport.
The book has gathered great reviews already. Joseph Lelyveld called it the "best piece of journalism to come out of India in the last fifty years". Shashi Tharoor and Jonathan Shinin, the editor of Caravan, have very high praise for it.
The lives of the children are blighted by the utter lack of prospects and their knowledge of it. That the stunted rag picker, Sunil, has a spurt of growth in the brief months when he turns into a thief, tells us of the kind of deprivation these children live in. They are in danger from corrupt policemen, their means of livelihood, and, some, even from their parents. These children are not free agents; they are prey. All this will not surprise an Indian reader.
What surprises is that the view of life is entirely from the children's eyes. The book gets its power by entering their minds, where the awful circumstances of their lives almost appear ordinary. This unswerving viewpoint brings us to understand that they are not statistics, they are individuals, with individual motivations and failures. In doing this the book rises beyond journalism to reach towards the psychological understanding of a novel.
Katherine Boo makes an appearance only in the last chapter where she writes about the methods that enabled her to enter the minds of children and teenagers who are not very expressive. This too is a fascinating insight, although to a different world: the motives and methods of a Pulitzer-winning journalist.
This is the true narrative of people in a Mumbai slum called Annawadi. While this may be something new or shocking from a westerner's point of view, I think every Indian knows this story. We hear it in our everyday news reports, we see it in the daily lives of lesser privileged people around us. I guess the motive of this book is to make people sensitive to the issue of poverty and the cycle of corruption and greed, but like I said its not that we Indians are not aware of the issue, its just that we turn a blind eye and do nothing about it. And in that respect I think this book will only serve as a speaking point for elitist who keep talking about the corruption and poverty but do nothing at all about it.
I agree. The unfortunate story of deprivation and poverty surrounding the luxury enjoyed by a few in India is an ubiquitous truth every Indian is aware of. What is uncommon is the way in which the narrative has been structured. It does not focus on the poverty or the deprivation. It gives respect to the individual. In a land overflooded with billions, an individual's story is often tramped over in favour of a collective, especially if the individual belongs to cattle class. But kudos to Boo's brilliance, her narrative has brought about the pathos of the individual into focus while describing a collective of people.
The end result being that the book is an effortless read. She has kept her and her perspective totally out of the narrative and concentrated only on the subjects of her narration. You get drawn into the book and before you know it, the book ends- as effortlessly as it began- leaving behind a few morsels of thought- admiration for the human spirit that sustains itself in the darkest of hours and respect for the almost 4 years of research and empathy that underlies the book.
A must read !!!
I picked up this book at the Mumbai airport bookstore and read the first couple of chapters at the platinum lounge waiting for a delayed flight. The irony began here.
The serpentine arrays of slum dwellings along the runway is usually distracting eyesore for most of us who fly in and out of Mumbai frequently. Maybe not anymore, if you choose to read this book.
Dissecting the lives, complex emotions, struggle for survival peppered with characters that entertain, anger and repel, the author has narrated a broader story -- the bigger picture of Mumbai - a city where the dark 'black' mingles seamlessly with the clean 'white'.
Set in a timeline which captures the global recession and its drilled down impact on the 'have nots', the narration incites respect, more than pity, hope more than compassion -- a hope the city thrives on, magically.. day after day....
Yes, this is not something the everyday Indian does not know about, Reading about the lives of the characters portrayed in the book, won`t excite you at all, won`t make you look up to them because you see this people everyday.
Reading first few pages for me was just flipping through pages, nothing new, yeah I know we do best in attracting news about our poverty. I am sure any non-Indian would read these accounts with two eyes pooped out.
The beauty of the book catches on you once you know all the characters and then the book moves narrating the events of their life.
That`s when it grabs you, Katherine`s superb journalistic language fueled from the eyes of a child, would make atrocious ordinary to you and ordinary as atrocious.
Read the book not for the topic but, for the style.
Dear mrs. Boo,
Great to know that you decided to write a book about your stay in India. However real it may be, I am prou...
The book is brilliantly written. In the initial stage when I was reading the book I was to re-confirm if the author was an Indi...Read More
I agree. The unfortunate story of deprivation and poverty surrounding the luxury enjoyed by a few in India is an ubiquitous tru...Read More
I picked up this book at the Mumbai airport bookstore and read the first couple of chapters at the platinum lounge waiting for...Read More