Remarkable book set in India illuminates deprivation

An engrossing and enlightening book came to my attention a while back.  It was written by Katherine Boo, a longtime New Yorker writer whose prose is elegant and artful.

Behind the Beautiful ForeversHonored by a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a National Magazine Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Boo had her book published in 2012.  I cannot recommend too highly Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity.

I have to say its ring of authenticity is a clarion invitation to understanding and empathizing with the poorest of the poor.  So compelling are the book’s descriptions that I felt as though I could smell the smells of a slum, taste the bitterness of injustice and feel the pain of deprivation on which Boo trains her attention.

Stupid me, either when I ordered Behind the Beautiful Forevers or got down my list of reading material, I forgot a key fact about the book until I arrived at Boo’s author’s note at the end.   Continue reading

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Traffic chaos is not in the eye of this beholder

One busy intersection without lights or signs during the evening rush period.

One busy intersection without lights or signs during the evening rush period.

Chaotic doesn’t begin to describe the traffic in much of the developing world.

One of my earliest memories of it takes place in Mumbai, which I visited in the late 80s.  I was thoroughly intimidated by the convergence of cows, bicycles, motorcycles, cars and pedestrians on the thoroughfares and side streets.  Crossing them seemed undoubtedly was perilous to the extreme.

I since have witnessed similar congestion and danger, usually without the cows, in Asia and Africa.

Here in Phnom Penh, what looks like chaos actually turns out to be more like a mutable form of brinksmanship.  Or chicken.  Continue reading