Katherine Boo · 256 pages
Rating: (82.5K votes)
“Much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.”
“What you don't want is always going to be with you
What you want is never going to be with you
Where you don't want to go, you have to go
And the moment you think you're going to live more, you're going to die”
“It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.”
“I tell Allah I love Him immensely, immensely. But I tell Him I cannot be better, because of how the world is.”
“...and maybe because of the boiling April sun, he thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably a little different from the corrupt people around him. Ice was distinct from - and in his view, better than - what it was made of. He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai's dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals.”
“What was unfolding in Mumbai was unfolding elsewhere, too. In the age of global market capitalism, hopes and grievances were narrowly conceived, which blunted a sense of common predicament. Poor people didn't unite; they competed ferociously amongst themselves for gains as slender as they were provisional. And this undercity strife created only the faintest ripple in the fabric of the society at large. The gates of the rich, occasionally rattled, remained unbreached. The politicians held forth on the middle class. The poor took down one another, and the world's great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace.”
“.. becoming attached to a country involves pressing, uncomfortable questions about justice and opportunity for its least powerful citizens.”
“Your little boat goes west and you congratulate yourself, "What a navigator I am!" And then the wind blows you east.”
“Do you ever think when you look at someone, when to you listen to someone, does that person really have a life?" Abdul was asking the boy who was not listening. "Like that woman who just went to hang herself, or her husband, who probably beat her before she did this? I wonder what kind of life is that," Abdul went on. "I go through tensions just to see it. But it is a life. Even the person who lives like a dog still has a kind of life. Once when my mother was beating me, and that thought came to me. I said, 'If what is happening now, you beating me, is to keep happening for the rest of my life, it would be a bad life, but it would be a life, too.' And my mother was so shocked when I said that. She said, "Don't confuse yourself by thinking about such terrible lives.'" Sunil though that he, too, had a life. A bad life, certainly-the kind that could be ended as Kalu's had been and then forgotten, because it made no difference to the people who lived in the overcity. But something he'd come to realize on the roof, leaning out, thinking about what would happen if he leaned to far, was that a boy's life could still matter to himself.”
“In places where government priorities and market imperatives create a world so capricious that to help a neighbor is to risk your ability to feed your family, and sometimes even your own liberty, the idea of the mutually supportive poor community is demolished. The poor blame one another for the choices of governments and markets, and we who are not poor are ready to blame the poor just as harshly.”
“The Indian criminal justice system was a market like garbage, Abdul now understood. Innocence and guilt could be bought and sold like a kilo of polyurethane bags.”
“Like most people in the slum, and in the world, for that matter, he believed his own dreams properly aligned to his capacities.”
“Being terrorized by living people seemed to have diminished his fear of the dead”
“He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai's dirty water, he wanted to be ice...He wanted to be recognized as better than the dirty water in which he lived. He wanted a verdict of ice.”
“Sunil and Abdul sat together more often than before, but when they spoke, it was with the curious formality of people who shared the understanding that much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.”
“In the West, and among some in the Indian elite, this word, corruption, had purely negative connotations; it was seen as blocking India’s modern, global ambitions. But for the poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained.”
“What, exactly, she had been protesting was subject to interpretation. To the poorest, her self-immolation was a response to enervating poverty. To the disabled, it reflected the lack of respect accorded the physically impaired. To the unhappily married, who were legion, it was a brave indictment of oppressive unions. Almost no one spoke of envy, a stone slab, a poorly made wall, or rubble that had fallen into rice.”
“As every slumdweller knew, there were three main ways out of poverty: finding an entrepreneurial niche, as the Husains had found in garbage; politics and corruption, in which Asha placed her hopes; and education.”
“In Delhi, politicians and intellectuals privately bemoaned the “irrationality” of the uneducated Indian masses, but when the government itself provided false answers to its citizens’ urgent concerns, rumor and conspiracy took wing. Sometimes, the conspiracies became a consolation for loss.”
“As Abdul and his family had already learned, the police station was not a place where victimhood was redressed and public safety held dear. It was a hectic bazaar, like many other public institutions in Mumbai, and investigating Kalu’s death was not a profit-generating enterprise.”
“Rich people’s garbage was every year more complex, rife with hybrid materials, impurities, impostors. Planks that looked like wood were shot through with plastic. How was he to classify a loofah? The owners of the recycling plants demanded waste that was all one thing, pure.”
“The better I know you, the more I will dislike you, and the more you will dislike me. So let us keep to ourselves.”
“Author's Note: I wanted to read the book that would begin to answer some of my questions, because I felt I couldn't write it... I also doubted my ability to handle monsoon and slum conditions after years of lousy health. I made the decision to try in the course of an absurdly long night at home alone in Washington, D.C. Tripping over an unabridged dictionary, I found myself on the floor with a punctured lung and three broken ribs in a spreading pool of Diet Dr Pepper, unable to slither to a phone. In the hours that passed, I arrived at a certain clarity. Having proved myself ill-suited to safe cohabitation with an unabridged dictionary, I had little to lose by pursuing my interests in another quarter-- a place beyond my so-called expertise, where the risk of failure would be great but the interactions somewhat more meaningful.”
“In America and Europe, it was said, people know what is going to happen when they turn on the water tap or flick on the light switch. In India, a land of few safe assumptions, chronic uncertainty was said to have helped produce a nation of quick-witted, creative problem-solvers.”
“Don't correct me, you don't have any rights over me." "What kind of life is this? So I sit at home , entirely dependent on this man, and then it turns out his heart was never with me. How is it possible to force someone to love me?”
“At the heart of her bad nature, like many bad natures, was probably envy. And at the heart of envy was possibly hope—that the good fortune of others might one day be hers.”
“Rich Indians typically tried to work around a dysfunctional government. Private security was hired, city water was filtered, private school tuitions were paid. Such choices had evolved over the years into a principle: The best government is the one that gets out of the way.
The attacks on the Taj and the Oberoi, in which executives and socialites died, had served as a blunt correction. The wealthy now saw that their security could not be requisitioned privately. They were dependent on the same public safety system that ill served the poor.”
“An overweight officer, having delivered a batch of children to the home, started telling one of the guards about his heart problem. “You think you want to be a cop, but you don’t, because it kills you,” said the officer, mopping his brow. Then he told of another officer with a lung problem, and one who had cancer, and of others who were stress-sick, and of how none of them earned enough to afford decent doctors. Abdul hadn’t previously thought of policemen as people with hearts and lungs who worried about money or their health. The world seemed replete with people as bad off as himself, and this made him feel less alone.”
“Much of her outrage derived from a belated recognition that she was as human as anyone else.”
“In the age of global market capitalism, hopes and grievances were narrowly conceived, which blunted a sense of common predicament. Poor people didn’t unite; they competed ferociously amongst themselves for gains as slender as they were provisional. And this undercity strife created only the faintest ripple in the fabric of the society at large. The gates of the rich, occasionally rattled, remained un-breached. The politicians held forth on the middle class. The poor took down one another, and the world’s great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace.”
“The industrialist (your boss, perhaps) demands that everything be proven, efficient, and risk free. The artist seeks none of these. The value of art is in your willingness to stare down the risk and to embrace the void of possible failure.”
“Men? They are simple creatures. Is there something wrong with your man? Feed him, and take him to your bed. Et Voila! All problems, they disappear. But if something is wrong with the woman? Je suis désolé. Women need to talk.– André Chevalier”
“No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
“OSWALD: For I'm not so afraid of death--though I should like to live as long as I can.
MRS. ALVING: Yes, yes, Oswald, you must!
OSWALD: But this is so unutterably loathsome.”
“I came out of the bathroom naked this morning as the computer was ringing and Meryl and Tony appeared via Skype.”
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