Course Hero. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 May 2020. Web. 23 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Behind-the-Beautiful-Forevers-Life-Death-and-Hope-in-a-Mumbai-Undercity/>.
Course Hero. (2020, May 1). Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 23, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Behind-the-Beautiful-Forevers-Life-Death-and-Hope-in-a-Mumbai-Undercity/
(Course Hero, 2020)
Course Hero. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Study Guide." May 1, 2020. Accessed September 23, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Behind-the-Beautiful-Forevers-Life-Death-and-Hope-in-a-Mumbai-Undercity/.
Course Hero, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Study Guide," May 1, 2020, accessed September 23, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Behind-the-Beautiful-Forevers-Life-Death-and-Hope-in-a-Mumbai-Undercity/.
On July 18, 2008, the police are called after a woman—Fatima, known as "One Leg"—is badly burned in the slum of Annawadi. Fatima's neighbors Abdul Husain and his father Karam are being blamed for the incident. Abdul is one of a family of 11, run by his mother Zehrunisa, a formidable matriarch. Abdul is a successful garbage trader and the family breadwinner and workhorse. The Husains are one of some 300 families squatting on land belonging to the international airport and living in extreme poverty in the shadow of five luxury hotels.
The reader is given additional background on the founding of the slum in 1991 by workers from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The workers had come to Mumbai to repair the runway. The slum is hidden from the people who use the airport by aluminum fencing on one side and a concrete wall on the other. The wall is plastered with attractive advertisements of Italianate tile and a tagline that reads, "BEAUTIFUL FOREVER." A corporation has recently bought the airport and plans to raze the slum to make room for a new terminal.
Three important characters are introduced in the early chapters. Asha is an ambitious lower-class woman who aspires to become slumlord, an unofficial job in Annawadi that involves communicating between "slumdwellers" and the authorities. Asha's daughter, Manju, is a college student and aspiring teacher who is ashamed of her mother's bad behavior, which includes extortion and occasional prostitution. Sunil is a young teenage scavenger who looks after his sister, Sunita, since their mother is dead and their father is a drunk. Sunil is often hungry.
Since they are doing well financially, by slum standards, the Husains have decided to fix up their hut. But the brick wall between them and their emotionally unstable neighbor, Fatima, crumbles during the repair operations. This incident precipitates a serious argument in which Fatima goes to the police station to falsely report an assault. Fatima continues to argue with the Husains when she gets back, and in a jealous fit of rage, she douses herself with kerosene, sets herself afire, and blames the Husains for the act. Because Fatima's young daughter saw her douse herself, Fatima eventually admits to the deed. But she claims that the Husains drove her to commit suicide, which is a crime under Indian law. Fatima dies four days after burning herself. Abdul; his father, Karam; and his sister Kehkashan are arrested and sent to jail.
After some weeks have gone buy, Karam's wife, Zehrunisa, is finally able to get her son, Abdul, released from the juvenile detention center. Abdul attempts to save the family business, which has gone to ruin in his absence. He is much changed by his incarceration and more introspective. Not long after Abdul's release, his good friend Kalu is mysteriously murdered, and the police cover up the incident. Five road boys—scavengers who steal from construction sites—are beaten by the police and told to stay away from the airport, and Sanjay, also a friend of Kalu, commits suicide. Sanjay was one of the boys beaten by the police, and he feared them as well as the people who killed Kalu. Both Abdul and Sunil are traumatized by the loss of Kalu and Sanjay, and they grow closer in their grief.
Boo picks up Manju's story and the story of her best friend, Meena. Both girls have contemplated suicide, but after a day of too many beatings, Meena goes through with it. She dies from eating rat poison despite the home remedies of village women, who get her to vomit, and the expensive treatment she receives at the hospital.
Karam and Kehkashan finally face their trial, and after some months they are acquitted of all charges. Things get worse for the slum dwellers after the 2008 worldwide recession and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November of that year. Both events have a negative effect on the scavenging business.
Asha is finally offered the opportunity to participate in a scam that will provide long-term remuneration, or income: running 24 nonexistent kindergartens on government money. The Husain family continues to rebuild their business and keep themselves alive. They look forward to moving their 11-member family into one of the 269-square-foot apartments with running water. The corporation has promised to provide long-term residents with such apartments after the slums are razed. Sunil continues to work for Abdul, but his prospects are dim.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Plot Diagram