Saturday, February 21, 2009

Opening Night

by Katherine Boo

In this article, Katherine Boo profiles Sunil, a thirteen year old kid who lives in the Gautam Nagar slums, at the Mumbai airport. He makes his living stealing 'German silver', or scrap metal, from the airport parking garage or other buildings close by. Most days, he is able to earn enough from this endeavor to raise himself above the poverty line (or 22 rupees a day). His life is encapsulated nicely in the article, and it appears that Boo had quite a bit of access to his daily activities.

Boo casually describes the realities of living in the slums - the dirt, ash, and smell of garbage that can practically knock you down, as well as the commonality of bald children, due to worm-infested rat bites. She talks about how, in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, security has increased a great deal, and the slum children are at much greater risk. One of Sunil's friends was tortured before being killed by security guards at a construction site.

At the same time that this poverty is being described, Boo also discusses the preparations for the opening night of Slumdog Millionaire, the movie set in similar surroundings. The contrast is striking, when she relays that the cost of a glass of rare Scotch in a hotel in Mumbai is the equivalent of one man's income for seven hundred days. Apparently the movie is not much-liked in India. People feel that it doesn't accurately portray the country's growth, and that it focusses too much on the negative.

I haven't seen the film yet, but from what I've heard of it, it doesn't accurately portray the life of children like Sunil, at least not with the same level of reality that Katherine Boo does.

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