Behind the Beautiful Forevers Chapters 5-8 Summary & Analysis
Part Two: The Business of Burning
Chapter 5 Summary: Ghost House
Fatima, the Husains’ neighbor, was born with only one leg. Because of her disfigurement, she rarely left her parents’ hut as a child and was married to the only person who would have her – a poor, much older husband. Now, when Fatima’s husband is away, she takes men into her hut – sometimes for money, sometimes merely to satisfy her sexual desires.
There is a constant strain between Fatima and the Husains, born from living in close quarters and having different lifestyles. Zehrunisa and Fatima frequently fight, but it is Zehrunisa who steps in to break up fights between Fatima and her husband. Recently, Zehrunisa’s daughter, Kehkashan, has left her husband of one year and returned home, since her husband was not interested in having sex with her. The men hanging around Fatima’s hut for sexual favors have begun to bother Kehkashan.
Also, Zehrunisa disapproves of Fatima’s parenting – particularly the fact that Fatima’s two-year-old daughter drowned in a bucket in their hut while Fatima was home. Yet, the Husains invite Fatima’s family over for Muslim holidays, believing that with so few Muslim families in Annawadi, they must all stick together.
Recently, Zehrunisa has begun to realize that she may not want to move to the small plot of land in Vasai, on which Abdul’s earnings have allowed them to make a deposit.
Vasai is a city of traditional Muslim beliefs, and Zehrunisa has enjoyed relative freedom from gender expectations in Annawadi, particularly when it comes to speaking her mind against her husband. Finally, Zehrunisa convinces her husband to abandon the deposit on the land in Vasai and put their money instead into improving their hut in Annawadi.
This appears counterintuitive on the surface, because the government has been threatening to raze the slums around the airport to make way for more progress (hotels, shopping, commerce). It is very likely that Annawadi will be destroyed soon, but the Husains hope that by showing their hut is an improved residence, they will qualify for one of the limited number of apartments the government is providing…