I’ve made a pit-stop at the Prologue. Its narrative style could well be the notes of a film director. Scene and frame recreated in prose; it read like a movie shot by both Shyam Benegal and Danny Boyle. But, this is not what forced the pause. The detailing of a stark and savage poverty in a lyrically descriptive style was unsetlling. ‘Yellowing cotton buds’ and ‘bellies stained in blue’.

For those of us that live with the helpless sadness of this divide, that use carefully created karmic-dharmic constructs to live with this and to continue with our own struggles; to us, it seems that only an outsider, for whom this experience has an other-worldly unrealness, could write this way. The detached, ever-observing, eye of the interloper stares with transparent lucidity through the beautiful prose. The constancy of her gaze distracts. A subject like this requires the words to translate a greater sense of the writer’s empathy, in order that it is warmly welcomed into and as our own.

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

Guest post byMITU SENGUPTA

In a remarkable book about slumdwellers in Mumbai, Katherine Boo brings to light an India of “profound and juxtaposed inequality” – a country where more than a decade of steady economic growth has delivered shamefully little to the poorest and most vulnerable.  But though indeed a thoroughgoing and perceptive indictment of post-liberalization India, the book fits into a troubling narrative about the roots of India’s poverty and squandered economic potential.

This is a beautifully written book.  Through tight but supple prose, Boo offers an unsettling account of life in Annawadi, a slum near Mumbai’s international airport.  In Boo’s words, this “single, unexceptional slum” sits beside a “sewage lake” so polluted that pigs and dogs resting in its shallows have “bellies stained in blue.” It is hidden by a wall that sports an advertisement for elegant floor tiles (“Beautiful Forevers” – and hence the title).  There…

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