|from google images|
Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers is about the people who live in a Mumbai slum called Annawadi, near the international airport. Below are excerpts from that book -some read:
Annawadi sat two hundred yards off the Sahar Airport Road, a stretch where new India and old India collided and made new India late. Chauffeurs in SUVs honked furiously at the bicycle delivery boys peeling off from a slum chicken shop, each carrying a rack of three hundred eggs. Annawadi itself was nothing special, in the context of the slums of Mumbai.
Less respectful terms for Tamil migrants were in wider currency. But other poor citizens had seen the Tamils sweat to summon solid land from a bog, and that labor had earned a certain deference.
Better still for Abdul, a frenzy of Chinese construction in advance of the summer's Beijing Olympics had inflated the prices of scrap metal worldwide. It was a fine time to be a Mumbai garbage trader, not that that was the term passersby used for Abdul. Some called him garbage, and left it at that.
Asha had developed her sharp tongue as a child, working the fields of an impoverished village in northern Maharashtra. Pointed expressions had been a useful defense when laboring among lecherous men. Discretion and subtlety, qualities useful in controlling a slum, were things she had learned since coming to the city.
Asha took note in that winter of hope:
Robert rented the fake zebras, along with a cart, to the birthday parties of middle - class children - a tun to honest work he thought the judging gods might factor in.
Robert's chief contribution to Annawadi history had been to bring Asha and other Maharashtrians to the slum, as part of a Shiv Sena effort to expand its voting bloc at the airport. A public water connection was secured as an enticement, and by 2002, the Maharastrians had disempowered the Tamil laborers who had first cleared the land. But a majority is a hard thing to maintain in a slum where almost no one has permanent work. People came and went, selling or renting their huts in a thriving underground trade, and by early 2008, the North Indian migrants against whom Shiv Sena campaigned had become a plurality.
What was clear to Asha was also clear to the Corporator of Ward 76, the elected official of the precinct in which Annawadi sat: Robert now belonged to his zebras. He'd lost interest in the Shiv Sena and the slum.
"The big people think that because we are poor we don't understand much," she said to her children. Asha understood plenty. She was a chit in a national game of make-believe, in which many of India's old problems - poverty, disease, illiteracy, child labor were being aggressively addressed. Meanwhile, the other old problems, corruption and exploitation of the weak by the less weak, continued with minimal interference.
In the West and among some in the Indian elite, this word, corruption, had purely negative connotations: it was seen as blocking India's modern, global ambitions. But for the poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained.
From page 5 to 28 of Behind the Beautiful Forevers