Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The city of Mumbai has seen much growth in the past years. A string of elegant hotels have been set up for travelers and high-class business men. An ever growing, top of the line airport has been built for those coming in and out of the country. From the outside, Mumbai seems to have taken a liking to being internationally integrated with the rest of world, otherwise known as globalization. This is not the case, however; as seen in Katherine Boo’s novel Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

This novel is set in a slum right next to the Mumbai International Airport called Annawadi. It focuses mainly on the life and story of the stories main character. Abdul Husein and his family make a living by selling scrap metal tossed out by the upper class of Mumbai. When looking at Abdul’s story, one can see the corruption that made it near impossible for globalization to have a positive effect on Annawadi. Abdul’s relationship with his neighbor, the unstable, one-legged Fatima, also shows how neighborhood relationships were a hindrance to Annawadi’s ability to be a part of Mumbai’s globalization.

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Before examining the reasons for Annawadi’s lack of effects from globalization, one must look at some of the reasons as to why Annawadi faces the alarming amount of poverty that it does. In the novel, Boo writes “What you don’t want is always going to be with you. What you want is never going to be with you. Where you don’t want to go, you have to go. And the moment you think you’re going to live more, you’re going to die” (Page 32). This quote shows how harsh it is in the slum of Annawadi. Having the misfortune of being born there makes it almost impossible to find fortune in life.

More then likely, one who is born in Annawadi will remain in poverty for their entire lives. There are many reasons for this, for one, disease runs rampant in the streets and allies of Annawadi. Due to the lack of hygiene and horrid living conditions, diseases prosper in Annawadi. This can be seen in the novel with Abdul’s father, who suffers from tuberculosis. Diseases like tuberculosis are common in the streets of Annawadi and numerous slums just like it. This makes it hard for Abdul’s father to work which means he can not make money to support his family.

This is a common problem in many slums for many families who have members suffering from disease. Another problem is the upper class that dwells within Mumbai. While the upper class is the minority class in Mumbai, they control close to all of Mumbai’s profits saving it all for themselves and not helping those in need. The fact that such a small percentage of Mumbai’s inhabitants controls a large percentage of its wealth is major reason why so many poverty stricken people were forced to live in slums like Annawadi. A third reason for the poverty of Annawadi can be seen in its slum lords.

The slums lords have total control over a slum and its inhabitants. If a person crosses paths with a slum lord, they are as good as dead. This fear of the power of slum lords keeps the people down and makes it almost impossible to rise out of poverty. In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo writes “A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught” (Page 45). These are all factors in why Annawadi faced such severe poverty. It is easy to say that these all had an effect on Annawadi’s absence from the prosper of globalization.

When looking at the story of Abdul in Behind the Beautiful Forevers, one can see the corruption of government that led to Annawadi’s lack of globalization. Abdul and his family live in Annawadi and sell scrap metal for profit. Abdul sold and bought from recyclers “For nearly all the waking hours of nearly all the years he could” (page 23). His family has done what seems impossible and has bought a parcel of land outside of the slums which would mean they would get to escape from Annawadi and its horrors. Tragically they are never able to fulfill this because of tensions with their neighbor, Fatima.

Tensions between neighbors was a leading cause of why globalization didn’t touch Annawadi. The fact that people were not working together and could not get along puts a strain on Annawadi and its inhabitants. Abdul’s family faces tensions with their neighbor. As they fortify their house, Fatima becomes angered with them and a fight ensues for a long time. Fatima is pushed to the point where she burns herself alive in an attempt to frame the Huseins. Due to the corruption within the police force and the government, Abdul, his sister and his father are convicted for murdering Fatima.

This corruption was a main factor is the lack of globalization as well. The corruption of the policemade the oppression of Annawadi’s people possible. Police could be bought which meant that whoever has the ability to buy the police has the ability to get rid of anyone who apposes them. Corruption such as this is a direct reason as to why Annawadi wasn’t able to prosper from the globalization that wealthier areas of Mumbai prospered from. Globalization has had a tremendous effect on Mumbai. It has brought large buildings, airports, and prosperity.

The sad truth is that many people do not get to feel the effects of this prosperity. Many people in Mumbai are forced to live in slums, like Annawadi in the novel Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. There are a few factors as to why Annawadi did not experience globalization and that can be seen in the main characters of Boo’s novel. Abdul’s sad story of hope being crushed by his crazed neighbor, Fatima, shows one how the corruption of the police prevented those who could not buy the polices favor were kept down making it near impossible to escape the horrors of the slum.

The slumlords were another reason as to why globalization missed Annawadi. The tight grip of power the slumlords had on the people of the slums made it hard for anyone to prosper within Annawadi. Living in the slums is a tragic thing to have to go through and Boo’s novel shows these atrocities up close and personal. Globalizatin brought prosperity to Mumbai, but due to these negative factors, slums such as Annawadi sadly missed out on that prosperity.


Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Random House, 2012. Web.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers. (2016, Dec 17). Retrieved from