Behind The Beautiful Forevers Summary – What happened in Annawadi Slum

Author: Katherine Boo

Short Summary
Behind The Beautiful Forevers (2012) summary reveals the situation of the Annawadi slum in Mumbai, India, as described by the author. In the book, the author Katherine Boo documents the life struggles of people living in the Annawadi slum and how they are fighting every day to make both ends meet.
behind the beautiful forevers summary

Detail Summary

An award-winning New York staff writer Katherine Boo writes the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Katherine went to see the terrible condition of people living in the Annawadi slums. Annawadi is in Mumbai, India, near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Internation Airport.

The author Katherine Boo spent three years and four months in the Annawadi slum with the most deprived people. She has documented their condition in her book.

The book shares the story of a garbage sorter named Abdul and his struggles. Abdul was earning by scavenging garbage. He was hiding in his family’s rubbish shed, fearing being caught for setting fire to his neighbor Fatima, despite being innocent and having spent his entire life trying to escape trouble.

Sunil, another young child from Annawadi, understands how limited the poor’s alternatives are. He spends the entire day looking for rubbish to sell to Abdul, mostly along a concrete wall at the airport covered in ads for “beautiful everlasting” ceramic tiles.

The goal of this wall is to keep Annawadi hidden from the airport’s wealthy international visitors. Sunil rarely finds enough trash at the airport to eat properly. His growth has been stunted due to a lack of nutrition, and he tries to exploit his appearance to win sympathy from airport security personnel, but it rarely works.

Besides that, the author describes the story of Asha, who used political connections to get rid of poverty while raising her beautiful daughter as well.

Behind The Beautiful Forevers Summary Key Points

Want to learn what happens in the Annawadi Slum? Read the following key points of the book Behind The Beautiful Forevers to change your perspectives towards life.

“What you don’t want is always going to be with you
What you want is never going to be with you
Where you don’t want to go, you have to go
And the moment you think you’re going to live more, you’re going to die”
― Katherine Boo

Poverty in the Annawadi slum

The author describes the condition of people living in Annawadi. Although they are extremely poor, they are still trying hard to make ends meet. Their young kids are trying to feed their families, and women there are also fighting to come out of poverty. Everybody has dreams, and all parents want their children to give all the basic necessities of life.

Annawadians are fighting poverty, diseases, corruption, and violence. Annawadians are obliged to dump their garbage into a local sewage lake because they cannot access a sewer. Animals drink from sewage waste, and disease-ridden excrement strewed about, making the locals sick. Not only that, but the sewage lake also attracts malaria-carrying mosquitos and ill rodents.

Moreover, when they do become ill or injured, access to medicine is a major issue, as the healthcare system itself is corrupt. Even when the state should pay for medicine, hospitals tax the Annawadians and take advantage of their plight.

Corruption and police abuse

The author, Katherine, points out the corruption and police abuse in her book through the eyes of poor people. Moreover, she criticized the elite Indians and considered them an obstacle to India’s progress.

The school that the Annawadi children attend is an example of this. It is supported by philanthropic donations, which are tragically misused. It is governed by a mother who places her unqualified daughter in charge of the school. And, in order to maximize profits, she has her daughter teach exclusively on days when the charity overseer comes in to check on things.

The people know the police will only help them with bribes. This is the only way they can avoid having false charges filed against them. Moreover, people are forced to choose the wrong path of corruption because they know that’s the only way to make their lives better and change their fate.


Another lesson the author gives readers is to be empathetic toward everyone around you. People are fighting to survive. Even people in Annawadi are killing their children because they don’t have no other option and nothing to feed them. Moreover, people are doing suicide to get rid of poverty.

But the privileged and corrupt people won’t understand this because these incidents and poverty haven’t hit you. The slumlord hasn’t gotten offended us, and we are not facing malaria. So, we can’t feel their pain.

“Like most people in the slum, and in the world, for that matter, he believed his own dreams properly aligned to his capacities.”
― Katherine Boo

The book tells that the children in the slums are routinely struck by cars as they cross busy streets on their way to school, and the drivers rarely stop. When a child dies, the police don’t even bother to investigate.

When a 15-year-old boy is killed, everyone can see it is murder. The cops label it TB to avoid having to look into it further. Sick children may be killed by their parents in desperate situations where they know they cannot pay for their care. Others commit suicide because they are imprisoned in their lives.

You might also like to read the book Blink Book Summary.

Who would I recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers Summary to?

Behind the Beautiful Forevers Summary recommends to all those who are ungrateful for what they have and complain over everything that they can’t get. The book will make them realize how some people fight to survive and escape poverty. Moreover, the book will teach you to be more empathetic.

Behind The Beautiful Forevers Summary - March 2022

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