Dreaming of a New India by Samantha Roeth
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo can be described in many ways but the overwhelming feeling that I was left with was horror. I am horrified by the condition in which some Indians are living. I am horrified by the government corruption in the city of Mumbai. I am horrified by the culture that has resulted as a way to survive in these conditions.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers chronicles the lives of several families living in the slums next to the Mumbai airport. We see each family hope, work, and lose repeatedly throughout the course of the novel. Their lives are utterly human and at the same time completely foreign to someone who grew up in a middle-class home in the United States.
In the novel, we see families come into contact with politicians, doctors, and police officers. In each of these encounters, corruption controls the situation. At one point in the book, a man lies dying on the street. Not one of his neighbors walking by will help him. It may be easy to blame those who ignore the man but they are not at fault. Helping this man would mean getting involved with the police. The police could charge the neighbors with a phony crime and then black mail them for money to delete those false charges. The risk involved with helping out ways any moral obligation. If someone helps, they are putting themselves and their family at risk. Due to the government corruption, slum dwellers are battling more than just poverty. They are living in a world where it is every man for himself. They have no support system.
I do not believe that India will be able to change the course of its future unless it eradicates the corruption that exists in the government. Education reform will fail, job construction will fail, and health programs will fail unless the most basic principle of society can be controlled. People need to feel safe and protected in their own country. People need to be able to rely on their policemen and politicians. Remember that it is the government which controls all social services. The people who need those services the most in India are unable to fairly use them because the people hired to protect them are exploiting them. My heart goes out to all of those people dreaming of a new India.