The Rains Washed the Mean Out of People

Katherine Boo (Photo:

Now it poured, a stinging rain. On the high grounds of the liquid city, rich people spoke of the romance of monsoon: the languorous sex, retail therapy, and hot jalebis that eased July into August. At Annawadi, the sewage lake crept forward like a living thing. Sick water buffalo nosed for food through mounds of wet, devalued garbage, shitting out the consequences of bad choices with a velocity Annawadi water taps had never equaled. People, also sick, stamped the mud from their feet and said, “My stomach is on fire, my chest.” “All up and down this leg, all night.” The sewage lake’s frogs sang sympathetically, but you couldn’t hear the frogsong indoors. Rain banged on the metal rooftops as if slum zebras were stampeding overhead.

Someone had once told Sunil that the rains washed the mean out of people. They certainly washed the stripes off the zebras. For weeks the animals stood revealed as poke-bone, yellow-hide nags, until the slumlord-in-decline, Robert, refreshed the black stripes with Garnier Nutrisse hair dye.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

~ Katherine Boo (1964 – )
Pulitzer Prize-winning American investigative journalist

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.
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