Behind the Beautiful Forevers

by Katherine Boo

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In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, how do Asha's experiences reveal that globalization doesn't alleviate poverty?

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Asha is presented as an interesting case study in this prize-winning work of non-fiction. Not only does she try and enter politics to enact change and to support the cause of the oppressed and those who have no voice, initially at least, she certainly sticks to her high principles and scrupulous values. However, as Chapter 16 makes clear, even the most principled of individuals is not impervious to temptation, and when Asha has the opportunity to receive a gift grant and head up an NGO that will give her both wealth, importance and allow her to raise herself up the social ladder, her fine ideals are abandoned. Note how this is made clear when eunuchs come to her asking her to register them so they can vote. The way she ignores them makes it clear she has left such trivial concerns behind her:

Asha might have to live in this slum for the time being. But she was a member of the overcity now, the director of a charitable trust, a philanthropic organisation with a city vendor number, and maybe, someday soon, foreign donors. She was a respectable woman in the land of make-believe, who also happened to be late for a date.

Note the description of the new realm that Asha has entered, the "land of make-believe." She has managed to secure for herself an exit from the world of gritty poverty and disenfranchised rights that she once championed. Globalisation has enabled her to access funds and money and ironically benefit her own situation whilst overtly promising to benefit the poor. Globalisation, with its trickle down theory of economics, is shown to be open to abuse and also to be a corrupting influence as the fate of Asha demonstrates.

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