‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo is a journalistic record and a non-fiction book that explores the lives of different people living in the slum of Annawadi.
A Quick Overview of the Plot
The book opens by introducing Abdul, who is a garbage sorter in Mumbai in the slums. He is hiding in his family’s shed trying to evade arrest for setting Fatima, his neighbor on fire. Before the event, he tried to stay out trouble and is innocent. We are then taken back a few months before Fatima’s burning. Abdul was helping his parents provide for the family by sorting recyclables. He has a younger brother named Mirchi, who dreams of a clean job maybe as a waiter, but he knows that there is discrimination against Muslims that limits opportunities.
Abdul had the task of finding the materials to be scavenged, and his mother handled the pricing and the haggling. They save some money to be able to buy land outside Annawadi slum. There is a disagreement between Fatima, who was the neighbor to them and had one leg. She seeks affection and respect. The argument proves disastrous to Abdul and the family since Fatima accuses them of battering her and then seeking attention, sets fire on herself to frame the family. She is unlucky and dies in the hospital from an infection due to the injuries. Now that the family of the Husains have the blame placed on them, which results in several family members getting arrested. They are found innocent by the end of the book, but the case of Abdul remains pending.
Asha is a local school teacher who dreams of being a politician and wants wealth. She has a beautiful daughter, and she hopes that her marriage will benefit them someday. Her daughter is in college and helps her mother by teaching her afternoon classes. Manju, the daughter, wants freedom after graduation. Asha sleeps around and finds any sources of funds were possible even with corrupt means. She soon gives her interest in politics up and instead wants to engage in fraud with the Education Department.