…by Katherine Boo.
Welcome to Annawadi. A slum surrounded by luxurious 5-star hotels close to Mumbai’s international airport. It is also home to many individuals who believe that along with the changing fortunes of India, their fortunes are bound to change. There is Abdul, a Muslim teenager who recycles garbage and sees generally keeps to himself but sees his family’s fortune changing any day. Asha has another means to changing her fortunes and that is through political corruption and having links with the Shiv Sena. It also helps that her daughter Manju is about to be Annawadi’s first college graduate (even if she does learn by memorising rather than understanding her subject matter) and is also very beautiful. Her friend Meena is a Dailt and subject to physical abuse by her parents and brothers. Then there is Fatima, or One-leg as she is commonly know due to her disability. Almost every Annawadian is hopeful about the future. Until Abdul, his father and sister are falsely accused of a tragedy that strikes the settlement and releases tensions around religion, caste, class, and power. With tragic consequences for some of the dwellers.
This book by Katherine Boo is a true account and a bird’s eye view into the lives of those living in Annawadi. She looks into the aforementioned characters and several more to craft a story of their individual and collective lives. It is in no way condescending but rather, gives names and faces to the zillion slum-dwellers in Mumbai. It shows the readers that they too have a life. That they too have a voice. That they too have hopes and dreams. The book is filled with humour and sadness, beauty and ugliness, hope and hopelessness all at once. Despite it being a work of non-fiction, the book reads as a work of fiction. Until the author’s note at the end where you realise just how much effort and work went into reaching out to these individuals to get them to tell their story. It is a beautiful and heart-wrenching tale of the lives of the Annawadians.
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Until next time,