Katherine Boo

  • Aired:  03/12/12
  •  | Views: 9,395

Journalist Katherine Boo talks about what her experience in Mumbai, India, has taught her about poverty in the United States. (5:29)

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

WELCOME BACK, EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A

MacARTHUR GENIUS GRANT

RECIPIENT WHO LIVED FOR

THREE YEARS IN INDIA SLUMS.

HUH, YOU THINK A GENIUS

COULD HAVE FOUND A NICE

HOTEL.

PLEASE WELCOME KATHERINE

BOO.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MISS BOO, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR COMING ON.

ALL RIGHT.

YOU ARE AN AMERICAN.

YOU WRITE FOR "THE NEW

YORKER", YOU USED TO WRIT

FOR "THE WASHINGTON POST".

ARE YOU THE RECIPIENT OF THE

PULITZER PRAISE AND A

MacARTHUR GENIUS GRANT, LA

DI DA, OKAY.

GENIUS GRANT PERSON, WHAT

NUMBER AM I THINKING OF?

>> 86, YOU CAN BUY THAT

[BLEEP].

>> REALLY?

>> UNDER THE TABLE MONEY.

>> YOU CAN BUY GENIUS GRANT.

>> UH-HUH, YEAH.

>> I HAVE TO GET ME ONE.

ARE YOU ALSO THE AUTHOR OF A

NEW BOOK, BEHIND THE

BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS.

LIFE, DEATH AND HOPE IN A

MUMBAI UNDERCITY.

WHAT IS AN UNDERCITY.

>> IT IS A PLACE THAT IS

INCREASINGLY HARD TO SEE

THESE DAYS, LOW INCOME

COMMUNITIES LIKE THOSE, LIKE

THE SLUMS IN MUMBAI, LAKE

MANY NEIGHBORHOODS IN OUR

COUNTRY.

>> WHY CAN'T WE SEE THEM.

>> BECAUSE YOU ARE IN A

GATED COMMUNITY.

>> I AM IN MY GATED

COMMUNITY.

>> YOU HAVE YOUR TINTED

WINDOWS.

>> RIGHT AND I HAVE

SUNGLASSES THAT HAVE MIRRORS

ON THE INSIDE.

I SAW SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE,

OKAY S THAT WHAT THIS IS, IS

THIS SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

>> EXACTLY THERE IS NO SONG

AND DANCE THOUGH AT THE END.

>> THERE IS NO SONG AND

DANCE AT THE END.

>> NO SONG AND DANCE, NO.

ONLY TROUBLE IS THAT THESE

ARE REAL PEOPLE, LIKE ACTUAL

PEOPLE SO, WHEN ARE YOU

TALKING ABOUT SOMEBODY WHO

GETS BEATEN UP BY THE POLICE

OR SOMEBODY WHO GATHERS

GARBAGE FOR A LIVING, THOSE

ARE REAL PEOPLE, THEY DON'T

GET TO GO TO THE OSCARS

AFTERWARDS.

>> AND HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE

IN THE UNDERCITY THAT YOU

SPENT THREE YEARS GOING TO.

>> THIS ONE IS ON LAND OWNED

BY THE MUMBAI INTERNATIONAL

AIRPORT.

AND SO THERE ARE ABOUT

80,000, 90,000 FAMILIES

LIVER ON THIS LAND.

AND IF YOU TAKE A PLACE LIKE

LIKE-- ONLY SIX PEOPLE OUT

36,000 HAVE PERMANENT WORK.

>> WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF

POVERTY WE ARE TALKING

ABOUT.

YOU TALK ABOUT ONE YOUNG MAN

NAMED ABDUL WHO LIVES IN A

SHED FILLED WITH GARBAGE HE

COLLECTED AND HE IS FLIPPING

GARBAGE TRAYING TO MAKE

MONEY OFF OF IT.

>> UH-HUH.

>> IS THAT PERSON POOR BY

INDIAN STANDARDS.

>> NO, IN THIS SLUM, THIS

KIDS IS A KID WITHOUT HONOR

IN EVEN IN HIS OWN FAMILY,

HIS BROTHER IS SMARTER AND

COOLER.

BUT HE'S MANAGED TO SUPPORT

A FAMILY OF 11 BUYING AND

SELLING THE THINGS THAT RICH

PEOPLE THROW AWAY.

AND SO HE HAS GOT, WHEN THE

STORY BEGINS HE HAS PROSPECT

ITS BETTER THAN ALMOST

ANYBODY IN THE SLUM.

>> WHAT IS THE STANDARD OF

POVERTY IN INDIA IF THAT

PERSON ISN'T POOR.

>> IT'S LIKE THE IRAQ WAR.

YOU KNOW, IF YOU REDEFINE

WHAT WINNING IS OR REDEFINE

WHAT POVERTY IS, NOBODY'S

REALLY POOR.

>> WHY DON'T WE DO THAT

HERE.

WHEN YOU GO THERE AND SPEND

THREE YEARS LIVING WITH

PEOPLE WHO ARE BY OUR

STANDARDS ABJECTLY POOR.

>> UH-HUH.

>> WHAT DOES AMERICA LOOK

LIKE YOU TO WHEN YOU COME

BACK.

>> IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS

INCREDIBLY FIXABLE.

ALSO YOU TURN ON THE TAP, OH

PIE GOD, POTABLE WATER,

THAT'S AMAZING.

YEAH, I COME BACK HEAR AND I

THINK OH F WE WERE REALLY

SERIOUS ABOUT FIXING POVERTY

WE COULD DO IT LIKE HALF A

SECOND.

>> WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

IF IT'S FIXABLE, HOW DO WE

FIX IT.

OBVIOUSLY --

>> CUT THE TAXES OF THE

RICH.

>> KPABDLY.

>> I WILL SUGGEST THAT.

>> BECAUSE THAT TRICKLES

DOWN HERE.

>> THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I AM

TRYING TO SEE BY SPENDING

THE TLAE YEARS, EXACTLY WHAT

DOES TRICKLE DOWN.

>> DOES ANYTHING TRICKLE

DOWN.

>> IT IS A SOCIETY IN WHICH

CORRUPTION TAKES SO MUCH

OPPORTUNITY FROM THE POOR

THAT CORRUPTION ITSELF

BECOMES ONE OF THE

OPPORTUNITIES THAT REMAIN.

>> IF THERE WAS SOME ADVICE

YOU COULD GIVE AMERICAN

POLITICIANS, BASED UPON WHAT

YOU SEE AS THE FAILURES OF

THE INDIAN POLITICIANS OR DO

YOU THINK THIS COUNTRY IS

BEING GOVERNED WELL.

>> I THINK IT IS THE SAME

THING IN DELI AS IT IS IN

WASHINGTON.

THERE IS SO MUCH ENERGY

EXPENDED ON, YOU KNOW,

THINKING UP THE NEXT NEW

IDEA FOR FIXING POVERTY BUT

THERE IS VERY LITTLE

ATTENTION TO SAY, TO WHAT

ACTUALLY HAPPENS WHEN THAT

MONEY GETS TO THE POOR

PEOPLE ON THE STREET.

>> I MEAN, ONE OF THE

REASONS WHY, THE ONLY REASON

I WOULD BE WILLING TO GIVE

POOR PEOPLE MONEY IS SO I

DON'T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT

THEM ANY MORE.

AND THAT'S A DOLLAR WELL

SPENT.

BECAUSE IF I THINK ABOUT

THEM TOO MUCH I MIGHT WANT

TO GIVE THEM EVEN MORE

MONEY.

>> WE WOULDN'T WANT TO YOU

HAVE COMPASSION FOR PEOPLE.

>> NO I CAN'T GET COMPASSION

FAT AGENCY BECAUSE THEN I

WILL BE FAT AGENCIED.

--

>> DO JOURNALISTS HAVE A

FORM OF MISSIONARY WORK.

I MEAN IS THIS-- THIS MUST

HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY HARD,

TACKING WORK TO DO.

THERE MUST HAVE BEEN EASIER

WORK FOR TO YOU DO.

YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A FOOD

WRITER FOR A FEW YEARS.

>> YEAH.

I THINK, FIRST OF ALL, I

THINK THIS IS INCREDIBLY

COOL WORK TO DO BECAUSE I

GET TO SPEND MY DAYS WITH

PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING

INTERESTING THINGS AND WHO

ARE, I FIND TO BE INSPIRING

ON SO MANY LEVELS.

SO I ACTUALLY FIND THAT IT

IS A REASONABLE WAY TO MAKE

A LIVING.

>> WAS IT HARD.

>> SURE IT WAS HARD.

>> WHY WORK AT SOMETHING

HARD.

I WORK HALF AN HOUR A NIGHT.

KATHERINE BOO, THANK SO MUCH

NOR JOINING ME.

KATHERINE BOO, THE BOOK IS

BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL

FOREVERS.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.