In the past two decades, Asia has experience a fast-paced
urbanization fueled by significant economic growth. With rapid economic growth in
Asian countries like China and India, urbanizing and transforming very fast, one
can gasp how there is a clear correlation between economic growth and
urbanization in Asia. As the world transformed, cities were formed as industrialization
continued, as “the twenty-first century to be declared ‘the century of the city'”.
Today, urbanized cities hold homes to 54 percent of the global population, and
that figure is expected to rise.
densely populated city of Mumbai has become India’s largest city, one of Asia’s
mega urban regions that has a financial center and also as the heart of
Bollywood film industry as well. However, underneath this glorious and rapid
urbanization, one should question, what does all of this mean for the actual
lives of people living in the city of Mumbai? And this is where Katherine Boo’s
novel Behind the Beautiful Forevers
comes in handy.
is no denying that urbanization is a key asset for socio-economic
transformation, national wealth and prosperity, and also overall development.
However, with every positive change and trend, there bound to be issues and
problems surrounding it. According to UN’s World Cities Report 2016, “persistent
urban issues over the last 20 years include urban growth, changes in family
patterns, growing number of urban residents living in slums and informal
settlements, and the challenge of providing urban services”. In my essay, I will
be analyzing few of these issues in comparison to Katherine Boo’s novel as it
will be a great way in showing the different aspects and lives of people living
in Mumbai at this urbanization era of India.
story of Behind the Beautiful Forevers
takes place in a slum-side of Mumbai called Annawadi and chronicles the lives
of several characters from different family lines in the slum from 2007 to
2011. With rapid industrialization near the international airport, many people
from the rural area have migrated into the city of Mumbai and formed a slum surrounding
the nearby airport. People in Annawadi is trying to elevate their lives and
eventually move out of the slum. With this rapid urban growth based on
capitalism, I noticed some very different family dynamics forming in the
stories of Annawadi slum. India is traditionally deeply rooted as a patriarchal
society where women are known to have limited roles in both family and society.
However in the lives of Annawadi slum, one can notice a significant changes in
the roles of women in its rapid growing capitalistic society. In chapter two, a
female character Asha Waghekar is introduced. She is a 39-year old woman who
aspires to become the new slumlord of Annawadi, which she succeeds by working
with and bribing the local politicians and police offices to keep the slum
under her control.