The hypnotic and arguably captivating book titled Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo has caught the attention of many sociologists who were offered a look at humanity as perceived by residents of Annawadi. The book closely follows the life of various subjects who live at the heart of a slum, which is demographically defined as comprising of 3000 inhabitants who are crammed into 335 huts. Consequently, this essay focuses on demystifying the Marxist and social lens of the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers by an emphasis on the characters incorporated in the narration.
Without a doubt, the prevalence of social stratifications in Mumbais undercity assists in the propagation of the Marxist notions. This vividly captured when the author makes her first acquaintance Abdul Husain who is 19 years of age and works as a trash merchant to fend for himself and his family. The author pens Abdul's verbatim by depicting his shortcomings stating Allah, in his impenetrable wisdom, had cut him small and jumpy. A coward: Abdul said it to himself I What he knew about mainly, was trash. (Boo 23). Essentially, Abdul is in the business of buying and reselling recyclables to recycling plants. His mother who has been instrumental in the success of the family business doubles up as his associates who haggles with waste-pickers. Furthermore, the author intensely depicts the daily routine of the garbage collectors by stating Each evening, they returned down the slum road with gunnysacks of garbage on their backs, like a procession of broken-toothed, profit-minded Santas. (p. 31). In regards to life in Annawadi, the author recounts the plight of the residents in this sprawling slum where aversion of life-threatening risks was the norm. She states, It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but also from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn't hit you, the slumlord you hadn't offended, the malaria you hadn't caught. (p.50). All these arguments appeal to the reader's emotions in that they stimulate the liberal perspective of viewing life in Annawadi through the experiences of its residents who seemingly stare at death itself in a quest to fend for themselves. Ms. Katherine attests to the fact that it is not uncommon to find child laborers rummaging through rubbles of dirt as they sought for valuables so that they may supplement for the basic needs that are essential for survival back at home. Accordingly, these descriptions paint a grim picture of the economic turmoil that pervades the Annawadians where in extreme cases, they result in violence, betrayal, suicidal ideations and false accusations all in a bid to remain at the helm of the food chain in a society characterized by survival for the fittest paradigms.
Ms. Katherine states that Almost no one in this slum was considered poor by official Indian benchmarks. (p. 41). This presents the logical fallacy of appealing to authority since the reality of the Annawadians is that the poorest of them had to be content with trapping frogs and rats to sustain their diets. In essence, the government paints Annawadi as a successful slum project where people coexist and are on their way out of the trappings of poverty perhaps due to the thriving business of waste recycling. However, the concept of the Annawadi slum was developed as a result of encroachment on land that bordered the Mumbai International Airport and has been put on notice for possible slum clearance. Additionally, in her definition of the system of governance in the marginalised areas, the author candidly dictates the rot that pervades the Indian law enforcements. She states 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. (p. 62). This is embodied in the fight for justice and exoneration of Abdul who was framed by his next-door neighbor Fatima who was jealous of the Husain family because they had amassed a considerable amount of wealth from the revenues of their waste trading business. In regards to Abdul's quest for justice, the law enforcers believe in their coercive techniques of interrogation, and they coax Fatima into a written accusation against Abdul which is then used as leverage against the Husain's where they police officers demand a bribe to secure Abdul's release. His mother refuses to subscribe to the requirements of the officials and as such Abdul is held in jail where he is beaten up for supposed lack of cooperation before he is booked into a juvenile correctional facility. The author also depicts the future of the Annawadians as being bleak since even for the believers who cling on to relief from a Supreme Being were continually disappointed because the man had already lost faith to reprieve from a higher authority. Ms. Boo writes, Still, from what he had observed in Annawadi, the fact that a boy knew about the gods didnt mean the gods would look after the boy. (p.77). This implies that even though children may have been brought up from a strictly religious background, their hopes were dashed as they were confined to a life where more often than not they move from hand to mouth.
The focus on Abdul's predicament aid in the propagation of the themes that prevail in the book where one exceptional logical fallacy is the appeal to nature. After his contact with the criminal justice system, Abdul arrives at the resolve that he would not trade in illegally acquired scrap metal. Hence, a shift in the moral sense creates an inevitable truth where he realizes that he cannot reach his defined financial targets by solely depending on legally acquired merchandise. Abdul candidly depicts the economic nature of Annawadia by stating, I tell Allah now I love him immensely, immensely. But I tell him I cannot be better, because of how the world is. (p.15). As a result, Abdul's remarks denote an individual who has resigned to the fact that despite the employment of his sentimentalism in his business, he would always end up on the losing end due to the tainted fabrics of the existing economic structure. Naturally, at the heart of Annawadi, the author reveals the natural order of things where she states, Much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said. In another instance, she illustrates challenges that encompassed the access towards public utilities where she contrasts Annawadian's predicament with the Western word stating, In America and Europe, it was said, people know what is going to happen when they turn on the water tap or flick the light switch (p.33). As a result, all these examples designates The kind of life the people of Annawadia were exposed to where they were essential services that are to be provided by the government only because they were viewed as second-class citizens.
The essay has demystified the Marxist and social lens of the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers by an emphasis on the characters incorporated in the narration. In summary, the spell binding book clearly incorporates various logical fallacies which have been employed by the author to bring out the thematic concerns that face Annawadians from a Marxist perspective. Moreover, the fallacies embody the plight of the slum dwellers where they rely on rather unorthodox methods for their survival as a result of being accustomed to a life filled with hardships.
Boo, K. (2012). Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Random House Incorporated.
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