Abhijit Srivastava's Reviews > Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
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Feb 14, 12

Read from February 13 to 15, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Stare. Stare straight. That’s the first thing I did after finishing reading it, and for quite a long time. I didn’t know what I was looking at, or more aptly, looking for – of course, there was this wall ahead, 3 feet ahead – but I wasn’t looking at it; I was looking for ‘faces’; faces that I’ve imagined floating between my eyes and the pages of the book while I was reading it; faces that don’t resemble anyone I know, but faces that might resemble closely with the people living right now, even as I write this and you read this, in Mumbai. Faces that I’ll see as I go to bed this morning, for time just passed as I immersed myself in this book.

Quite frankly, this book is like no other book of non-fiction written on contemporary India ever. This is the splendid result of a thorough and persistent research coupled by unrelenting passion and determined will to see through a gigantic task taken by a (relative) foreigner in a land where many of the native citizens choose to ignore the lead protagonists of this work in a manner that may border on their forced invisibleness.

The story is powerful, and as noted by Amartya Sen, it “simultaneously informs, agitates, angers, inspires and instigates”. The deaths (read suicides) of some of the lead characters are portrayed in the exact simplicity as their going to sleep after a hard day’s work. Sometimes, you maybe able to see it coming, but at other times, it will strike you out of the blue, and you may want to re-read the passage to digest that dreaded line.

This book is about India that many Indians try to conceal behind fancy establishments. Instead of attacking and eradicating the poverty, they attack and eradicate the poor. Though based in Mumbai, one can see different shades of the story unfolding daily, with varying degrees of volatility, in any other Indian metropolitan city. As a matter of fact, I see a fraction of the Annawadi slum (portrayed in the book) daily as I take that half kilometre walk to Saket Metro station in New Delhi. Maybe, i was imagining their faces as I was reading this book.

All this is going to stay with me for a while.
I’d suggest this book to anyone who wants to see more of India than those hyper-marketed “Incredible India” advertisements.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Sunishka (new) - added it

Sunishka (i haven't read it yet) but India IS beautiful.... did you think it portrays India in a terrible way... I mean, does it not consider AT ALL the beauty of our nation?


Abhijit Srivastava Read it first, and then we can have a discussion about it.


message 3: by Sunishka (new) - added it

Sunishka I don't want to have a discussion really. I just don't want to read a book that DEGRADES the name of my nation. So if you think it's going to do that, I'd appreciate a warning.


Abhijit Srivastava It doesn't "degrades" the name of your nation; all it does is that it presents an alternate picture of the reality.
If you've ever wondered about life in the slums, you should read this book.
Also, this book is an excellent work of non-fiction, and you would be reading about the lives of real people.


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