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Things Fall Apart: A Review of Behind The Beautiful Forevers

April 25, 2012

This week, I reviewed Kate Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers for The Hindu. At the outset, I liked the book and, as a reporter, was blown away by a number of things that the review doesn’t really address – the way the book was organised, the reporting and research process etc. The review also addresses some of the points made by Mitu Sengupta in her review of the book – published a few weeks ago on Kafila.

Behind a low wall near the taxi stand adjacent to the Sahar Police Station in Mumbai is a ledge of concrete suspended seventy feet above the Mithi River. “By some trick of wind in the sluice,” Katherine Boo writes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers, “trash tossed over the wall tended to blow back and settle on this sliver of concrete. It was a space on which a small boy could balance.”

That small boy is Sunil, a 12-year-old garbage collector determined to find as much trash as it takes to buy food lest hunger stunt his growth and leave him a runty man-child forever shorter than his younger sister. “To jump start his system, he saw he’d have to become a better scavenger. This entailed not dwelling on the obvious…” Read on

3 Comments leave one →
  1. xonzoi barbora permalink
    April 26, 2012 9:22 PM

    Splendid, nuanced review that does justice to the book.

  2. hamaguchi permalink
    April 27, 2012 3:30 AM

    if this is not a fiction, i would call it as a travelogue. certainly not an investigative reporting. like her, i am a foreigner and lived in india for years and visited countless times (though i do not write as well as she does). we do have a lot of empathy for indians, particularly those like them, but never get quite involved, perhaps. that’s why we can look at and write about the most miserable indians in a very beautiful way. on the other hand, sengupta was born in india, can’t look at them without trying to do something for them. how about you, aman?

  3. hamaguchi permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:35 AM

    i have also seen an interview article by a french news agency of manju and others in annawadi after the book was released:

    http://dawn.com/2012/03/04/the-lives-behind-new-hit-book-on-mumbai-slums/

    in the interview, manju says she teaches at school for five hours a day as well as giving free language lessons and studying for an master’s degree in english literature. she says her mother will soon chose a husband for her but that she wants to continue teaching and become a principal. i think this is closer to what i know about india. the indian government may not have done enough to fill the stomach and provide a decent housing to every indian, but it might have done sufficiently well in providing various opportunities accessible to most of its people. you may not see the income figures rising fast nor the malnutrition rates falling, but you may see after a while these children who were successful in accessing these opportunities turn their lives around.

    although this book, even according to manju, speaks of the truth, has it done so in a more negative light than what it actually is, for the purpose of anything other than just to present these people and their lives to the world? a big question mark in here.

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