Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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  • Features 17 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
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Behind the Beautiful Forevers Chapters 12-14 Summary & Analysis

Part Four: Up and Out

Chapter 12 Summary: Nine Nights of Dance

In September 2008, Asha is firmly in control of Annawadi. When the Corporator visits, she is given a seat at his side. Reveling in her newfound power, Asha stops making excuses to her family about her nighttime visits to men; she has earned the right to behave as she pleases.

Although Fatima died nearly two months before, her death is still discussed in Annawadi. Other women, perhaps inspired by Fatima, pour kerosene on themselves and threaten to light a match. Manju and her friend Meena, who is forbidden by her family from venturing outside the house except for her visits to the toilet, discuss different methods of suicide during their nightly bathroom talks. Manju is depressed about her mother’s visits to men and overwhelmed with study for her exams. Vijay, the college student she is interested in, tells her that she can be his bride in another lifetime – not this one.

Asha has arranged for a band and deejay for Navratri, a festival of nine nights of dance. It will be Meena’s last Navratri before her upcoming arranged marriage and relocation to a Tamil Nadu village. Like Manju, Meena is not excited about the idea of marriage or of living in a small village with strict rules for women and separate castes. Recently, Meena saw a snake slithering over her menstrual cloth, and her mother had pronounced this a sign that Meena would be barren.

On the day before the beginning of Navratri, the maidan is cleaned and lights strung up. Manju finds Meena sitting in her doorway, holding an empty container of rat poison, which she claims she has just ingested. Manju tries to interest others in Meena’s situation, but most believe that Meena is only kidding. Meena claims that she is not kidding; she drank tubes of rat poison twice before, but vomited up the poison before it could hurt her. This time she took it with some milk to make sure she could keep it down. Eventually, Meena is brought to Cooper Hospital, where she dies six days…

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