Alice'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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's review
Feb 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: asia, non-fiction
Read in February, 2015

I can't help feeling a mixture of both hopelessness (at the corruption) and hopefulness (at the ingenuity of the people) after reading this book. The Indian system is painted as being completely corrupt. Every-man-for-himself seems to be the only consistent rule. But, it's even worse than that - "powerless individuals blamed other powerless individuals for what they lacked. Sometimes they tried to destroy one another. Sometimes . . . they destroyed themselves in the process. When they were fortunate . . . they improved their lots by beggaring the life chances of other poor people." Not a happy thought, right? But, on the other hand - it's amazing how people continue to hope and strive for a better life. The idea that the chaos and unpredictability of life in India creates a society of "quick-witted, creative problem-solvers" also comes through in the book. What seems evident is that India cannot look to the Chinese, or any other, model for development/poverty alleviation (certainly not to the international charity model) - they will have to make the rules up for themselves, because their situation is so strongly influenced by their unique history and cultural norms, and the unique strengths of their people.
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