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 9-11 Summary & Analysis

Part Three: A little Wildness

Chapter 9 Summary: Marquee Effect

Asha and her family travel to Vidarbha, a rural region of Maharashtra, to visit with her family. Asha had been a field worker in her youth, and was used to backbreaking work and abject poverty. Although recent reforms and government aid are supposed to help rural workers, the rural suicide rate is high. Some resort to self-immolation or drinking pesticide when the situation seems hopeless. Anil, one of Asha’s relatives, tells the story of how he came to Mumbai to seek more opportunities. After living on the streets and attempting – fruitlessly – to hire himself out as a day laborer, Anil returns to Vidarbha, disgraced.

As a college-educated girl, Manju is highly regarded in the village. Seeing rural poverty firsthand, she is afraid that Asha will arrange her marriage to a farmer and decides she would rather run away than have this happen.

Back in Annawadi, Asha has to take college classes or face losing her temporary teaching job. She has begun to study higher-class people and imitate their clothing and interactions. Multiple marriage offers have come in for Manju, including one from a widow in Mauritius. However, Manju has other options that seem more lucrative to Asha, including selling insurance. Manju studies and passes her insurance exams, but ultimately does not know anyone who can afford to buy insurance. She also becomes trained for response in terrorist situations, and in this training, she meets Vijay, an attractive college boy. Manju is becoming increasingly unsure about the value of her college education – jobs at government schools require large bribes, but jobs in private schools pay very little. With Asha berating Manju for paying so much attention to the children in her hut school, Manju begins teaching her class every other day, then every third day.

On the night of her fortieth birthday, Asha’s phone rings, interrupting her family’s celebration. She immediately begins to put on jewelry and makeup. Realizing what her mother is about to do, Manju pleads with her to stay, but Asha leaves anyway. As she has done before, Asha…

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