When a non-fiction book is written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author and when it is a reportage of life in ‘Annawadi’, a makeshift settlement behind a row of luxury hotels and close to the new International Airport in Mumbai, it cannot but be a gripping and touching read.
The aspirations and goals of parents and the younger generation strike a chord. One is guilt-ridden as ones eyes move around the room in which they are sitting and reading… Maybe sunk in a favourite couch, coffee at hand, fresh fragrance to soothe and create an ‘atmosphere’ perfect for reading….and then you enter the slums, gagging on imaginary stench, and gut-wrenching poverty.
The excitement of rag pickers when they come across trash thrown by the rich, gives a clear insight into a world very few pause to think about. The suppressed emotions and tensions over sex, religion and power, show the layers in which society exists. It also reflects on how idealism is a luxury one affords when the belly is full and the children are healthy, otherwise one would sell ones soul and ones body too.
Catherine’s book is relentless and no-holds-barred account of life. It has a truth that all of us are aware of but few are comfortable enough to confront, quite like Arvind Adiga’s ‘White Tiger’.
The stories that pan out are touching and shocking… How can people live like this, one wonders?