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Clearly, Boo's prize winning non-fiction account of life in the slums of Mumbai deals with the key themes of poverty, inequality, unemployment and powerlessness through the presentation of the realities of life in a Mumbai slum. The initial description of the slum and its surroundings in the Prologue make these themes absolutely clear:
Serving the airport clientele, and encircling Annawadi, were five extravagant hotels: four ornate, marbly megaliths and one sleek blue-glass Hyatt, from the top-floor windows of which Annawadi and several adjacent squatter settlements looked like villages that had been airdropped into gaps between elegant modernities.
As Mirchi says, "Everything around us is roses... and we're the shit in between." The issues of powerlessness, poverty and inequality are therefore at the very centre of this work, and are developed through the description of the challenges that face these slum dwellers. The constant reminder of the massive inequality of India is represented in the uber-modern and wealthy buildings that encircle the slum. Boo's moving account traces the challenges that the various slum dwellers she follows have just to survive and to make ends meet in a world that gives them hardly any opportunity and little chance to improve themselves. Boo presents the Western reader, sitting comfortably in his or her armchair in their secure home in the suburbs, with a world where it is so impossibly hard to live a "good" life and where so many are forced into crime or corruption in order to survive. These are presented as necessary strategies by Boo in order to survive the inequality, unemployment, poverty and powerlessness that are such a daily reality for the slum dwellers depicted in this book.
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