Katherine Boo, a Pulitzer-Prize–winning journalist and staff writer at The New Yorker, has spent the last twenty years writing about poverty and how people get out of it. The essay in this issue appears as the prologue to Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, just published by Random House. (March 2012)
Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father. In a slum hut by the international airport, Abdul’s parents came to a decision with an uncharacteristic economy of words. The father, a sick man, would wait inside the trash-strewn, tin-roofed shack where the family of eleven resided. He’d go quietly when arrested. Abdul, the household earner, was the one who had to flee.