Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Kalu Character Analysis

A thief in Annawadi who makes deals with the police to locate and secure stolen goods. Kalu’s good humor makes him popular among the slum residents, especially Abdul and Sunil, yet the officials do not care about Kalu at all. When Kalu is murdered, the police report it as death due to illness. Boo sees Kalu as a representation of the bright young men and woman in India who never achieve their true potential in a society that ignores and neglects them.

Kalu Quotes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The Behind the Beautiful Forevers quotes below are all either spoken by Kalu or refer to Kalu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers published in 2014.
Chapter 11 Quotes

"All murders we detect, 100 percent success," was how Senior Inspector Patil, who ran the Sahar station, liked to put it. But perhaps there was a trick to this success rate: not detecting the murders of inconsequential people.
Succumbed to an "irrecoverable illness" was the swift conclusion of Maruti Jadhav, the inspector in charge of Kalu's case. At the morgue of Cooper Hospital, the nature of the "irrecoverable illness" was decided. Fifteen-year-old Deepak Rai, known as Kalu, had died of his tuberculosis - the same cause of death tagged to the bleeding scavenger who had slowly expired on the road.

Related Characters: Kalu
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Kalu, one of the boys who makes his living as a thief in Annawadi, is clearly murdered but the officials who pick up his body record the death as tuberculosis. This practice happens often in Annawadi, as it is deemed too much trouble to figure out how poor nobodies like Kalu have died. The lives of the Annawadians don’t matter to the people in power of Mumbai. It is easier to pretend that they do not exist at all, in order to avoid having a poor reputation.

Furthermore, Mumbai does not want to project an image of crime so that tourists will continue to come and boost the Mumbai economy. To keep up this image, the police in Mumbai simply erase the lives of unimportant people who have no money, connections, or family who will make further trouble. As Kalu is an “undercitizen” who isn’t supposed to legally exist any way – as a thief who squats on airport land in Annawadi – the police are comfortable pretending that his death was natural instead of doing their due diligence by investigating the real cause and getting justice for this boy.

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Trying to make sense of the deaths of Kalu and Sanjay, Sunil and Abdul grew closer. Not quite friends-rather, an unnameable, not-entirely-willing category of relationship in which two boys felt themselves bound to two boys who were dead. 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.

Related Characters: Abdul Husain, Sunil, Kalu, Sanjay
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

In the wake of Kalu’s murder and Sanjay’s suicide, Abdul and Sunil become one of the few instances of friendship in Annawadi. Though they are not necessarily close, these two boys have seen far too much pain together to not be close in some ways. The deaths of Kalu and Sanjay are not often spoken of in Annawadi, too dark for the slum residents who would rather focus on their hope for their own futures. Seeing this, it is easy for Abdul and Sunil to believe that their deaths would not matter either. Given how Kalu and Sanjay were erased, the bond between Abdul and Sunil is a way to ensure that they do in fact matter and that they will not be forgotten. Though they do not speak about their late friends, this partnership is a way to honor their memory in Annawadi.

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Kalu Character Timeline in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The timeline below shows where the character Kalu appears in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Annawadi
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...friendship. Abdul envies this closeness, as Abdul has only one casual friend, a thief named Kalu. Abdul’s greatest bond is with his youngest brother, Lallu. Abdul cries every time he sees... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sunil
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...video games at Annawadi’s first entertainment center. One of these thieves is a boy named Kalu, who uses Eraz-ex to give him the strength to scale barbed wire fences and steal... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
One night, Sunil overhears Kalu tell Abdul about a thieving operation that went wrong. Kalu found some iron bars at... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Kalu tells Sunil to bring his bedsheets and the two boys sprint down Airport Lane. Kalu... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...is unable to figure out why the man would do that. A few weeks later, Kalu asks Sunil to help him with another theft. Sunil refuses, unable to explain even to... (full context)
Chapter 10: Parrots, Caught and Sold
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...Sunil wishes he had lots of brothers to protect him, but all he has is Kalu, one of the thieves who has taken Sunil under his wing. Sunil smokes with Kalu,... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Kalu specializes in stealing from the recycling bins that the airline catering companies use, but his... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...his lessons from The Master throughout the slum. The only person who will listen is Kalu, freshly returned from working construction with his father. Zehrunisa compliments Kalu on how healthy he... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
The next evening, Kalu and Sunil are selling airport trash to Abdul when a disabled man suddenly walks up... (full context)
Chapter 11: Proper Sleep
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...by the disabled man, but the police have come to ask if anyone knows where Kalu’s relatives are because Kalu is dead. Abdul is shattered by the news, both grieving for... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...the body, both out a morbid curiosity and to make sure that it is really Kalu who has been found. The police keep them away from the body, but Sunil sees... (full context)
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...recording the murders of “inconsequential people” as deaths due to disease. It is decided that Kalu died of tuberculosis and his body is cremated to erase any signs of attack. The... (full context)
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Sanjay, one of the Annawadians arrested after Kalu’s death, comes sobbing to Zehrunisa with the real story of how Kalu died. Kalu had... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
...His younger sister is confused, wondering if Sanjay is so saddened by the news about Kalu because Sanjay is high on Eraz-ex. Sanjay tells his sister to get proper sleep, then... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Sunil and Abdul become closer after Kalu and Sanjay’s deaths. They theorize on who killed Kalu, guessing that airport security guards or... (full context)
Chapter 12: Nine Nights of Dance
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
Fatima’s death still haunts the women of Annawadi as the deaths of Kalu and Sanjay haunt the boys. Fatima has become a symbol of everything the Annawadians dislike... (full context)
Chapter 13: Something Shining
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...people who want to die due to the hard economic times in Annawadi. He misses Kalu and his goofy jokes. Abdul is more sober company, always talking about philosophical questions such... (full context)
Chapter 17: A School, a Hospital, a Cricket Field
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Life and Death Theme Icon
...luxury these horses had enjoyed. No attention is given to the still uninvestigated deaths of Kalu and Sanjay, and the slum boys accept that the lives of horses mean more to... (full context)