The Depiction of Poverty in Economy in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

February 16, 2022 by Essay Writer

While reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers, I found the prologue to a bit confusing. The reader suddenly learns that the presumed main character, Abdul, is going into hiding while his father, Karam is going to offer himself to the police. I suppose the author was trying to set up direction of the story and then backtrack to the beginning where she would discuss the events that led up to the scene written in the prologue. It reads like one of those news magazine television shows, such as 48 Hours, wherein the show starts off with the attention grabbing main event in order to grab the audience and keep them interested. Such a format would be in line for Ms. Boo since she is a journalist by trade. A woman named “One Leg” was burning; the police are looking for this guy, Abdul. Why is she burning? Why did Abdul do it? Did he do it? We’ll learn the answers to these questions and more if you just stay with through the rest of the book.

True to form, the prologue became less confusing once I began to read the first chapter. Enter the setting. The small neighborhood of Annawadi is described as a slum in Mumbai and is located near the airport. The town is lined with hand-built huts that people live in, and a sewage lake that has had bad effects on the animals, such as goats with intestinal distress as well as dogs and pigs “that slept in its shallows emerged with bellies stained blue” (7). There is not much privacy with the thin walls between the homes. Annawadi is also a microcosm of many of the prejudices that play out in the poverty stricken areas of India: Pakistani-Indian, Hindu-Muslim, social hierarchy, economic envy. This is one of the main reasons why Abdul finds it difficult to hide from the police; he fears that a neighbor may see and turn him in. In reading chapter 1, you learn that Annawadi was built in 1991 by poor migrants who came to work on the airport. It is stated that 17 years later the people living in Annawadi are no longer in poverty due to the economic growth in India. However, the author describes the struggle of living in Annawadi and getting work. And although Abdul and his family have done well with the garbage work, they are still not free from poverty. Katherine Boo wrote that: “almost no one in this slum was considered poor by official Indian benchmarks” (6), but with the description of the people and their work, it seems like they are still living in poverty. So I have to wonder what the “official Indian benchmarks” standards are for the poverty in this area. There’s a constant emphasis on poverty as evidenced by her saying,“when Abdul left garbage outside, it got stolen by the scavengers, and he hated to buy the same garbage twice” (12).


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