In the past two decades, Asia has experienced a fast-pacedurbanization fueled by significant economic growth. With booming economy in Asiancountries like China and India, urbanizing and transforming at a fast rate, onecan easily see how there is a clear correlation between urbanization andeconomic growth in Asian regions.1As the world transformed, cities were formed and industrialization continued;”the twenty-first century to be declared ‘the century of the city'”2.

Today, urbanized cities hold homes to 54 percent of the global population3,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 functions as a financial center and also as the heartof Bollywood film industry. 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.

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Thereis no denying that urbanization is a critical step 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”4.In my essay, I will be analyzing few of these issues in comparison to KatherineBoo’s novel as it will be a great way to highlight the different aspects andlives of people 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 backgrounds in the slum from 2007to 2011. With rapid industrialization near the international airport, manypeople from the rural area have migrated into the city of Mumbai and formedmany slums surrounding the airport.

People in Annawadi is trying to elevatetheir lives and eventually move out of the slum. With this rapid urban growthbased on capitalism, I noticed some very different family dynamics forming inthe stories of Annawadi slum. India is traditionally deeply rooted as apatriarchal society where women are known to have limited roles in both familyand society.

However, in the lives of Annawadi slum, there are significantchanges in the roles of women in its rapid growing capitalistic city. Inchapter two, a female character Asha Waghekar is introduced. She is a 39-yearold woman who aspires to become the new slumlord of Annawadi, which shesucceeds by working with and by bribing the local politicians and policeoffices to keep the slum under her control. “In this reformation, thirty-nine-yearold Asha Waghekar perceived an opportunity… she wanted to be the woman-to-see.”5For Asha, her hopes for prosperity comes through corruption. From a Westernperspective, corruption usually has a negative connotation attached to itsmeaning as it is perceived to be a dishonest act of those in power andsomething that needs to be eliminated from society. However, what is interestingto see is that, for the people of the slums in Mumbai, corruption works asanother opportunity for success in their efforts to elevate their lives. Ashauses the art of corruption such as being a fake kindergarten teacher and byestablishing a non-existing non-profit organization to launder money throughthese businesses.

She uses sexual favours with numerous number of companionsand is not ashamed. By chapter 12, “Asha was in control of Annawadi”6,and “relaxing into her authority, Asha stopped making elaborate excuses to herfamily about the men she met late at night”7,it was almost as if she had earned the right to behave as she pleases with hernewly found authority and success. India, where women are seen as a men’scommodity, Asha definitely represents changing family dynamics through gaining economicand capitalistic power; if she can be a successful breadwinner of thehousehold, then she has he own voice.  Anothermajor issue surrounding urbanization in the city of Mumbai is urban poverty:”the widespread growth of slums or informal urban settlements”8just like the Annawadi slum from the book.

Moving to the city doesn’t guaranteeabsolute prosperity and success, you get a substantial number of people thatdwell around the city squatting in slums where they do not have the right tothe land they occupy nor have any ownership over it. Because of their fragilestate and position within the city, people of the slums face challenges againstthe corrupt state and are in desperate need of state governance in providing themwith adequate basic public services and affordable public housing options. Someof the major but basic services a city should be able to provide include: transportation,water and sewer systems, health care, education and affordable housing options,without these services, the slums and informal settlements will continue togrow and “the basic productivity of all citizens will be compromised”9.In Annawadi, people live in very poor conditions; access to running water isonly available for two hours a day, people use public washrooms with theirneighbours, and the sewage lake that they live next to is prone to floodingwhich the main protagonist character Abdul and his family lost everything overonce. Annawadi being an informal settlement, residents face enormous amounts ofcorruption as they must make payments to police officers and slumlords in orderto insure their life in the slum. Through this vicious cycle, government fundsare wasted in the wrong hands as corruption persists; Due to corruption, Sunil waskicked out of the orphanage, Asha takes away the money for the slum’s educationinto her pocket robbing the children of their education, and even during thetrial on Fatima’s death, medical officers, police officers, and witnesses alldemand payment for their testimony and there seems to be no hope for a fairtrial.

At the end of the book, Annawadi is scheduled to be taken down by thegovernment, Abdul’s family stay hopeful that they will quality for one of the 269-squarefoot apartments seen as the best option 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. Thetwo Mumbai 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 and thepoor 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”10,the city will continue to experience structural setbacks that stem from inequalitybetween the rich and poor. 1 Lecture 1 Notes2 Linda Peake and Alison Bain, Urbanization in a Global Context (Oxford: 2017), p. 1.3 Urbanizing andDevelopment: Emerging Futures, World Cities Report 2016 (UN-Habitat: 2016),p.1.4 Ibid, p.

1.5 KatherineBoo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers,(New York: Random House, 2012), p.17.  6 KatherineBoo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers,(New York: Random House, 2012), p.177. 7 Ibid,p.177.

8 Urbanizing and Development: Emerging Futures, World Cities Report 2016 (UN-Habitat:2016), p.13.9 Ibid, p.14.10 Urbanizing and Development: Emerging Futures, World Cities Report 2016 (UN-Habitat:2016), p.14.