In lines in the slum from 2007 to

In the past two decades, Asia hasexperience a fast-paced urbanization fueled by significant economic growth.With rapid economic growth in Asian countries like China and India, urbanizing andtransforming at a fast rate, one can gasp how there is a clear correlationbetween urbanization and economic growth in Asia. As the world transformed,cities were formed as industrialization continued; “the twenty-first century tobe declared ‘the century of the city'”. Today, urbanized cities hold homes to54 percent of the global population, and that figure is expected to rise. Adensely populated city of Mumbai has become India’s largest city, one of Asia’smega urban regions that has a financial center and also is the heart ofBollywood film industry as well.

However, underneath this glorious and rapidurbanization, one should question, what does all of this mean for the actuallives of people living in the city of Mumbai? And this is where Katherine Boo’snovel Behind the Beautiful Foreverscomes in handy. Thereis no denying that urbanization is a key asset for socio-economictransformation, national wealth and prosperity, and also overall development.However, with every positive change and trend, there are bound to be issues andproblems surrounding it. According to UN’s World Cities Report 2016,”persistent urban issues over the last 20 years include urban growth, changesin family patterns, growing number of urban residents living in slums andinformal settlements, and the challenge of providing urban services”. In myessay, I will be analyzing few of these issues in comparison to Katherine Boo’snovel as it will be a great way in showing the different aspects and lives ofpeople living in Mumbai at this urbanization era of India. Thestory of Behind the Beautiful Foreverstakes place in a slum-side of Mumbai called Annawadi and chronicles the livesof several characters from different family lines in the slum from 2007 to2011. With rapid industrialization near the international airport, many peoplefrom the rural area have migrated into the city of Mumbai and formed a slumsurrounding the airport.

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People in Annawadi is trying to elevate their livesand eventually move out of the slum. With this rapid urban growth based oncapitalism, I noticed some very different family dynamics forming in thestories of Annawadi slum. India is traditionally deeply rooted as a patriarchalsociety where women are known to have limited roles in both family and society.However, in the lives of Annawadi slum, one can notice significant changes inthe roles of women in its rapid growing capitalistic society. In chapter two, afemale character Asha Waghekar is introduced.

She is a 39-year old woman whoaspires to become the new slumlord of Annawadi, which she succeeds by workingwith and bribing the local politicians and police offices to keep the slumunder her control. “In this reformation, thirty-nine-year old Asha Waghekarperceived an opportunity… she wanted to be the woman-to-see.” (P.17) For Asha,her hopes for prosperity comes through corruption. From a Western perspective,corruption usually has a negative connotation attached to its meaning as it isperceived to be a dishonest act of those in power and something that needs tobe eliminated from society. However, what is interesting to see is that, forthe people of the slums in Mumbai, corruption works as another opportunity forsuccess in their efforts to elevate their lives.

Asha uses the art ofcorruption such as being a fake kindergarten teacher and by establishing a non-existingnon-profit organization to launder money through these businesses. She usessexual favours with numerous number of companions and is not ashamed. Bychapter 12, “Asha was in control of Annawadi”, and “relaxing into herauthority, Asha stopped making elaborate excuses to her family about the menshe met late at night”, it was almost as if she had earned the right to behaveas she pleases with her newly found authority and success.

(P.177) India, wherewomen are seen as a men’s commodity, Asha definitely represents changing familydynamics through economic and capitalistic power, where if she can be asuccessful breadwinner of the household, then she has a voice.  Anothermajor issue surrounding urbanization in the city of Mumbai is urban poverty: “thewidespread growth of slums or informal urban settlements” just like the Annawadislums of the book. Moving to the city doesn’t guarantee absolute prosperity andsuccess, you get a huge number of people that dwell around the city squattingin slums where they do not have the right to the land they occupy nor have anyownership over it.

Because of their fragile state and position in the city,people of the slums face challenges against the corrupt state and are in a desperateneed of state governance in providing them with adequate basic public servicesand affordable public housing options. Some of the major but basic services acity should be able to provide include transportation, water and sewer systems,health, education and affordable housing options, without these services, theslums and informal settlements will continue to grow and “the basicproductivity of all citizens will be compromised”. In Annawadi, people live invery poor conditions; access to running water is only available for two hours aday, people use public washrooms with their neighbours, and the sewage lakethat they live next to is prone to flooding which the main protagonistcharacter Abdul and his family lost everything over once. Annawadi being aninformal settlement, residents face enormous amounts of corruption as they mustmake payments to police officers and slumlords in order to insure their life inthe slum. Through this vicious cycle, government funds are wasted in the wronghands as corruption persists; Due to corruption, Sunil was kicked out of theorphanage, Asha takes away the money for the slum’s education into her pocketrobbing the children of their education, and even during the trial on Fatima’sdeath, medical officers, police officers, and witnesses all demand payment fortheir testimony and there seems to be no hope for a fair trial. At the end ofthe book, Annawadi is scheduled to be taken down by the government, Abdul’sfamily stay hopeful that they will quality for one of the 269-square footapartments seen as the best hope to the slum dwellers of Annawadi. Throughoutthe book, Mumbai is divided into two; one being the overcity that is prosperousand moving ahead into modernization, and the other being the undercity that ispoverty-stricken where options at bettering their lives are very limited. The twoMumbai cities constantly clash with each other, however what one shouldremember is that how their co-dependency and co-existenceis an inevitable part of the urbanization city of Mumbai.

Both the rich andpoor rely on the same corrupt systems of law and order, and that they bothdepend on each other. The slum dwellers picking the scraps of the overcityclean and providing plentiful of labour force for the staffing at servicesindustries, meaning that the informal economic activities of the slums are alsoa key part of what makes the city run smoothly. Without the government’s effortin “providing adequate basic services and infrastructure”, the city willcontinue to experience structural setbacks that stem from inequality betweenthe rich and poor. 


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