I very rarely have the time at the minute to pick up a book and read it cover to cover in a matter of days. One exception recently has been a book by Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai slum.
In this book the author tells the story of a number of people who live in a slum near Mumbai airport, Annawadi. Katherine is a journalist who has written a lot about the poor in America, but this most recent publication shifts the focus to life in in a Mumbai slum. The way this book is written in gripping, the author tells the story of each character less like a journalist would usually do so, but more like it was a novel. The difference being, that this was not a novel, this was the reality. I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in geography, India, poverty, slum redevelopment and development more generally to read this book.
“Annawadi is a ‘sumpy plug of slum’, a garish, seething, stinking, frantic wriggling community of 3,000 people, flanked by Mumbai airport and several luxury hotels, and fenced off by hoardings advertising Italianate floor tiles decorated with the slogan ‘Beautiful Forever, Beautiful Forever…’ Boo’s descriptions of life within are almost Dickensian, as are her characters: the former slumlord who paints his horses with stripes to look like zebras which he hires out for children’s parties; Kalu, the little thief with a legendary pain threshold whose skills at mimicry keep everyone entertained; Sunil, a touching scavenger who pretends that he goes to school. And there is Asha, the aspiring slumlord, uneducated, ambitious, unscrupulous but somehow very appealing, and her gorgeous daughter Manju, the only college graduate in Annawadi.” The Telegraph
Annawadi isn’t located the map, as is typical for many growing slum settlements, however, if you google Mumbai airport you can see the spread of the settlement behind the runway.