One tastes the entrails of a seething Mumbai slum in this vivid, visceral account

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Daily Mail
Mar 19, 2012
A Big Boo, Yes, But...

Apropos the review of Katherine Boo’s book Behind the Beautiful Forever (Mar 5), it hurts as hell to be reflected at a mirror and be told that one is ugly. But I think it’s time we stopped reacting and started thinking. I will never have anything but the highest regard for Mumbai, for it was a city made by dreams. Around independence, this was one place unburdened by history which people flocked to and built their lives. Even today, people flock to this one city when they’ve lost hope elsewhere. And regardless of the Shiv Sena and its cohorts, it has the heart to accept all, especially the dirty, unfed and unwashed. While Ms Boo is right in her observations, Mumbai cannot be blamed for the squalor. Yes, it is dirty, but the dirt of all India washes on to its shores.

Rajesh Chary, Mumbai
Feb 25, 2012
09:39 PM

Thank you Katherine Boo to show us garbage of beautiful Mumbai.You did good job of sanitary Inspector.Now I humbly requested to you  please visit  ghetto of New York and Chicago show us garbage of super rich mighty America.Please visit to Red Indian camps and give us your sanitary Inspectors report.Describe us how government of America converted  these camps as a picnic spot and earning money from tourist showing them life of original American.Let World know how civilized human right defenders treating true owner of America barbarian way.If you do this you will do great job for mankind. People  world over call you great humanitarian of mankind 

Ramesh Raghuvanshi
pune, India
Feb 25, 2012
11:08 PM

Too bad boo is writing about the stink in Mumbai. Badboo !

Bangalore, India
Feb 26, 2012
12:37 AM

To join the dots between Annawadi and Bundelkhand, covered so well by Shekhar Gupta in his column on the UP elections, there is a great deal of hope and aspiration and upward mobility amongst India's poor, whether living in slums or in the countryside. Education is each parent's prayer and passport for her child. No reason to fear the future.

ashok lal
mumbai, India
Feb 26, 2012
06:32 PM

But but where is the book ... didn't find it in a few stores I visited. Is Banisthan at work already .... someone in their bureaucratic cubbyhole delaying the release (Katju may be:-) in the hope of a ban/censor. Is there a brand ambassador of Mumbai - just like WB/Mamata-di has SRK (why this Mamata-kolaveri-di nothing works in the City?) and Gujrat/Modi has AB (why this Modi-kolaveri-da everything supposedly works in Gujrat?)?

Raghuvanshiji - your backhanded complement and thank you sounds like anger - at how dare a foreigner do this instead of looking at her own backyard? These rude interruptions to our "wet dreams" of superpower status are truly getting annoying!!! File a PIL boss - a ban - maybe some censoring. How about raising the cry for her via to be cancelled? But she is a card carrying member - the PIO one - as the spouse of Sunil Khilnani. What to do :-)

Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India
Feb 27, 2012
07:27 AM

We are getting a bit tired of such books written by white, western people about the sewers, stench, poverty, violence etc in the slums of Mumbai. Of course, if you dip your mouth and nose in shit and urine, it will taste and smell like a sewer.  Please tell us something new for a change!!  Indians acknowledge that this problem needs to be addressed but have so far failed to provide and implement solutions for various known reasons.  Having said this, it is only fair that the white western folks also tell us about the poverty, filth, crime, ineuality, injustice, violence, greed and similar problems in their own mega-cities.  We all know that the so called great western cities have similar problems in varying degrees.  Particularly over the last couple of years of global recession, all big cities in the West are facing massive unemployment, crime, violence, increasing racism, bigotry etc.  And of course, there are slums and ghettos in these cities as well.  In such depressing environment, stories of filth in Mumbai offer the poverty-pornography-addicted western audience some relief from their own problems.  Nobody is denying the problems Mumbai is facing, and it might take another 50- 100 years for India to fix these problems in its own way.  But it would be helpful if the western do-gooders focus on their own problems because they have plenty.

Sydney, Australia
Feb 27, 2012
01:37 PM

Vivek ... "Indians acknowledge that this problem needs to be addressed ...."

Are you so we sure that we indeed acknowledge. If so, for some the responses I am not sure we really "accept" it and hence truly work on it.

Then he adds "..... but have so far failed to provide and implement solutions for various known reasons."

Are the reasons for the failure that well "known". I am not so sure.

Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India
Feb 27, 2012
01:40 PM

It hurts as hell to be shown the mirror and for good measure be told 'you're ugly'! But I think its time we stop reacting and start thinking. I will never have anything but the highest regards for Mumbai - because it was a city built by dreams. When a free India was born, this was the one place not burdened by history which people flocked to and built their lives. Even today thousands flock to the city where they have no hopes elsewhere. And irrespective of MNS and SS, the city has a large heart to accomodate all of them. So while the writer is right in her observations, dont blame Mumbai for it, for if Mumbai closes its heart then it can possibly rid itself of all this poverty and build a glitzy city only for the well off. But then it would not be Mumbai! If Mumbai has dirt, it is the dirt of the whole of India which washes into its shores. If Mumbai has riches, it is because it rose above narrow mindednes and rewarded the best in people. Ditch the narrow mindedness and every city in India will become a Mumbai - maybe not in its physical contours, but in spirit!  I do realise that for many who have not lived in Mumbai and form their views from new/media, you may read about 'north indians' being mis treated etc - I dont deny such occurances - but despite that it is still the preferred destination for scores who dont see any hope in other places!

Rajesh Chary
Mumbai, India
Feb 27, 2012
01:52 PM

 The weak and diseased and the Gypsies got eliminatted in the two great wars of Europe and unwittingly helped them reduce the burden of slum dwellers!! These wars also provided an opportunity to clean up rebuild the messy areas of their cities to make them look better than Mumbai. But in India do we want such an opportunity.Of course a big NO.

We would rather put up and shut up with the muck. We are not  Spaniards to go on a killing spree killing all the slum dwellers like the Spanish did to the Incas and we cannot kill the gypsies and we cannot eliminate disabled and weak people like the Nazi Germans did to their own country men.But of course its also a shame that a great ciy like Mumbai has hardly any pretensions of a modern city. The Maharashtra Govt and the Municipal Corporation deserve our condemnation for neglecting a financial hub like Bombay.

Chennai, India
Feb 28, 2012
02:33 PM

Good review of what seems to be a remarkable book. The good news is that the book has made it to the New York Times' prestigious best selller list (it is 9th this week).

Dallas, United States
Feb 28, 2012
02:57 PM

Rajesh - the indictment, if there is that in the book (don't know since have read only the reviews), is not about Mumbai - the city of dreams. It is about governanace and if as the saying goes "we get the leaders we deserve" then it must mean "we get the governance we deserve too since the leaders provide the governance". Hence it is an indictment of "us" (as a people and culture with Mumbai one representative of it).

BTW, it is not foreigners who make statements, so called vision statement, like "we will make Mumbai like Shanghai/Singapore/HongKong", we do - out governance team does. Then given our ability of governance and ability to execute it turns out more delusional than visionary.

We cannot criticise them for writing such books just because they are foreigners - it is good they do because they do bring a certain passion, detachment, rigour and honesty to their work. They have all the rights to do so. We can't tell them - don't look at us - you have plenty to look at in your home. They have't stopped us to write whatever we damn well feel like about their home. So do it - if you feel that helps us.

Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India


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