I read a fascinating account in the Feb 23rd edition of the New Yorker Magazine of life next to the airport in one of the thirty slum villages there in Mumbai, India. Katherine Boo has written a piece called “Opening NIght” in which she juxtaposes the destitute life of a young boy named Sunil with the opening night of the new movie, “Slumdog Millionaire.”
I tried to “furl” (or bookmark) this article online, but the New Yorker’s archive is set up like a very clunky pdf frame of pictures of the magazine. I’m sure that the powers at this magazine think they are both making their archive accessible and protecting their content by having such a clunky interface. Very dumb and annoying. This is a great (if not quite believable) story told from the point of view of Sunil. I recommend it to you, but don’t know how you’ll read it at this point unless you have a hard copy of the magazine or access to the New Yorker’s terrible online archive.
I say that the story is not quite believable not because it’s not credible but because it reads too much like subjective point of view fiction. But on the other hand, there are pictures of Sunil in the mag and also a pretty bad video on the New Yorker site that seems to make sense with the written acount.
Due to the New Yorker’s silly idea about content, I momentarily considered scanning in the story. Then I realized that it will probably be available before too long anyway. I’ll try to remember to keep checking for it on other sites.
In the meantime, here is a very ironic conclusion Boo draws about how the rich people of the world have a real stake in keeping information from the rest of us:
“This frenzy of fence-building was not just an Indian thing. It was as global as the crisis in garbage. And it reflected uneasiness about a time that might or might not come in which information flowed so freely that, however little the rich wished to consider the details of the poor, the poor might fully consider the details of the rich. Not the fantasy contours of wealth long available on the television and on the billboards but the precise thing happening next door. The fences insured against a time when a scavenger in Gautam Nagar might learn that a shot of rare Scotch consumed in ten minutes at the Sheraton’s ITC Maratha cost exactly as much as he earned in seven hundred fourteen-hour days picking up aluminum cans and used tampon applicators, and find that information too much to bear.”
So let me get this straight. This article in the New Yorker makes the point about the divisions between the haves and the have nots by telling an excellent story about Sunil’s daily life lived a ten minute walk from the internatinal terminal where hotels charge from two hundred to a thousand dollars a night. These hotels have extensive high walls and barbed wire-fences around them.
This article is copy protected online so that only people who can afford the subscription can have access to it. Apart from the incredible and devastating story that Katherine Boo is telling in this article, don’t you think it’s weird that the New Yorker keeps this very article behind it’s own cyber version of those high walls and barb wired-fences.