Corruption in the Beautiful Forevers Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” takes place in Annawadi, a small slum near the airport in Mumbai, India. The story focuses on the Husain family, who makes their living selling recycled garbage. Sadly, even in this small slum, the population is inundated with corruption on every level. Corruption is so common that many of the inhabitants in Annawadi view it as a necessity to improve their way of life so they strive to be corrupt. Asha Waghekar, a kindergarten teacher, set her sights on becoming the new slumlord of Annawadi.
She doesn’t want to be a garbage sorter; she wants to raise her status by running the slums. She willingly takes on the problems of her neighbors, but only if she will gain a financial benefit. She refuses to help anyone if they cannot afford to pay her. She works at keeping the slum under control in hopes that one day she will obtain her dream job of becoming the Corporator of Ward 76. Asha convinces her hard working daughter to lie and say they are teaching the children when in reality they don’t unless supervised.
She concocts a scheme and claims she’s been running multiple schools and receives $10,000 even though she hasn’t been teaching any children. She claims she runs a non-profit but pockets or sells the donations. She launders money through the schools she claims she runs. She even arranges the sale of some of the inhabitants’ homes, which basically turns those out into the streets. Poornima Paikrao is a government official that was involved in the investigation of Fatima being set on fire. Fatima’s story changed many times and it is clear she is making up the story just to get back at the
Husains, especially when her daughter states she saw her mom pour the kerosene on herself. Paikrao didn’t drop the case; instead she tried to figure out how to make a financial gain. She tries to blackmail the Husains for money by telling them that if they paid her then she would have Fatima change her story again. The police are also corrupt and looking for a payout so when Karam is in jail and Abdul turns himself in they are both beaten and are told that the beatings will stop and the false story that Fatima is spinning will be ignored if the family will pay them money.
Police are set up as guards on Airport road. They are supposed to keep scavengers away from the tourists, but if they receive a cut of the profits they will look the other way. When they discover Kalu stealing from the airline garbage bins, they let him keep the stolen goods if he becomes a drug dealer. When Kalu decides to stop stealing he is killed and the police cover his cause of death by claiming it was tuberculosis. The police round up local boys and beat them, when one commits suicide to escape his death is listed as an addict who killed himself.
Hospitals, Doctors and charities are also corrupt. The hospital withholds medical treatment if they aren’t paid their exuberant fees. They don’t even supply food or water. False papers are created to make Abdul appear younger so he would be moved to the children’s detention center. The doctor at the detention center then threatens Abdul that if he doesn’t pay him two thousand rupees that he will report that Abdul is actually an adult.
The legal system is a place that is so corrupt that the truth doesn’t matter, and freedom will only be awarded if prices are paid to multiple people. Karam and Kehkashan’s trial was full of false testimonies from police officers, medical personnel, neighbors and friends. Sadly, Karam and Kehkashan were placed in the back of the room where they couldn’t hear most of the proceedings. . With all the corruption in Annawadi, it is refreshing to see the Husain family trying to keep their morality. Abdul Husain, in particular, is a guiding light in such a dark time and corrupt ommunity.
Even though corruption is rampart and it would be so much easier to just follow suit, Abdul sticks to his beliefs and lives his life with his morals intact. He does not have an easy life, and it doesn’t keep him out of trouble, but at least he has a reason to be proud. This is a very heart-wrenching look at a community forced to be a slum and the horrors that they have to deal with every day. However, there is a strong theme of staying true to a moral path no matter what the rest of the world does. It might not always be the easy path, but it is the most respected one.