Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Called “One-Leg” by the residents of Annawadi due to a birth defect that left her leg twisted and unusable, Fatima struggles all her life to find a sense of self-worth after being treated as useless and sub-human for her disability. Born Hindu with the birth name Sita, Fatima is renamed and forced to convert to Islam when she marries a Muslim man and moves to Mumbai. Fatima is ridiculed by the other slum residents for her flamboyant extra-marital affairs, but she clings to these moments of physical attraction to prove that her life matters at all. Fatima’s anger at the world comes to a head when she burns herself in response to insults from the Husain family, especially Zehrunisa and Kehkashan. Fatima dies from her injuries and the burning sparks a case that ruins the prospects of both families.
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Fatima Character Timeline in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The timeline below shows where the character Fatima appears in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Between Roses
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...this night, Abdul has been accused of setting his neighbor, a crippled woman snidely called One Leg , on fire. Abdul can smell “One Leg” burning from inside the shed. He climbs... (full context)
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Abdul’s mother, Zehrunisa, also disapproves of One Leg because she wears perfume and lipstick. Abdul silently thinks that his mother does not always... (full context)
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...to get rid of her, even though Sita’s husband is Muslim. Her husband renames her Fatima and the two have three daughters together. Fatima does not seem to grieve when her... (full context)
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...or escaping their families or getting enough to eat – even going to college. But One Leg is the craziest of these dreamers in Abdul’s mind, as she wants to be respected... (full context)
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...family, simply relaying that Karam, Abdul, and Abdul’s sister Kehkashan have been charged with beating One Leg and setting her on fire. Abdul overhears the charges from his hiding place, knowing that... (full context)
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...and thinks it pays off to be alert. Yet even Abdul had not foreseen that One Leg would burn herself. (full context)
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Hours later, a woman named Cynthia, a friend to One Leg and rival to the Husain family in the garbage business, tries to convince people to... (full context)
Chapter 1: Annawadi
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...children becoming rich. The chapter then starts, moving back in time to January 2008, before Fatima burned herself and Abdul turned himself in. Zehrunisa wakes Abdul, telling him to get to... (full context)
Chapter 5: Ghost House
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...can’t make stupid mistakes the way rich people do. The chapter then starts focusing on Fatima, who comforts herself in her boring arranged marriage by having multiple affairs. For any other... (full context)
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Zehrunisa angrily thinks that Fatima’s extramarital affairs have brought improper men to their neighborhood who now leer at Kehkashan. Zehrunisa... (full context)
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Fatima becomes even more flamboyant after her daughter dies, wearing makeup and rubbing her lovers in... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Hole She Called a Window
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...stone floor flat to prepare for tiles. Karam goes to buy the ceramic tiles while Fatima yells through the wall at the Husains to keep the noise down. Abdul ignores this,... (full context)
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Fatima yells even louder as the wall that her hut shares with the Husains begins to... (full context)
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Zehrunisa and Fatima each go outside, yelling and shoving each other about the wall. A crowd forms to... (full context)
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Fifteen minutes later, a neighbor tells Zehrunisa that Fatima has gone to the Sahar Police Station to accuse Zehrunisa of assault. Kehkashan tells her... (full context)
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...and influence in Annawadi by solving this fight. Asha tells Zehrunisa that she will convince Fatima to give up the accusation for 1,000 rupees. Zehrunisa does not trust Asha, and turns... (full context)
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Back in Annawadi, Kehkashan is guarding her family’s things and fuming at the sight of Fatima putting on elaborate make-up. Kehkashan insults Fatima and threatens to twist off her other leg,... (full context)
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...out so poorly, then shocked to hear his father, Karam, call him to come beat Fatima. Abdul has never disobeyed his father, but he doesn’t want to hit a cripple. Luckily,... (full context)
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Kehkashan starts a fire for dinner. Meanwhile, Fatima’s daughter Noori returns home for dinner to find the door to her house shut. Noori... (full context)
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A crowd forms outside, clucking at Fatima for burning herself for attention. Fatima screams that this is the Husain family’s fault. Kehkashan... (full context)
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The crowd argues about who should take Fatima to the hospital, eventually settling on Asha. Asha offers to pay for an auto rickshaw,... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Come-Apart
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At the Burn Ward in Cooper Hospital, Fatima enjoys being treated like she matters. She lies in her first bed, surrounded by dirty... (full context)
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Fatima has already registered accusations against Karam, Abdul, and Kehkashan. This prompted Karam’s arrest and Abdul’s... (full context)
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Fatima spends three days at the public hospital, with her husband forced to buy all her... (full context)
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...he beat a crippled woman. Abdul has no answer but the truth, that he insulted Fatima but never touched her. The police move on to Karam, asking how he expects to... (full context)
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...about paying these bribes, knowing they will have to save money for a lawyer if Fatima dies. Zehrunisa appears periodically to give updates on how much Asha is asking to make... (full context)
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Four days after Fatima’s burning, a Muslim fakir (monk and miracle-worker) comes to Annawadi. Kehkashan jumps at the opportunity... (full context)
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Fatima’s burns are recorded as the official cause of death, but it is really an infection... (full context)
Chapter 10: Parrots, Caught and Sold
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Several other bodies are found over the next days, until Annawadians become afraid that Fatima left a curse on the whole slum. Rumors that Annawadi will soon be destroyed by... (full context)
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...and punches Abdul in the chest. Abdul does not react at all, wary of another Fatima situation. Abdul and Sunil go home, leaving Kalu to wander back to the airport. In... (full context)
Chapter 12: Nine Nights of Dance
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Fatima’s death still haunts the women of Annawadi as the deaths of Kalu and Sanjay haunt... (full context)
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A week before Navrati, Meena and Manju meet at the public toilet to discuss Fatima’s “way out” of their worries about arranged marriages. They don’t want their beautiful skin to... (full context)
Chapter 14: The Trial
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...amounts of money in the process. This trial only considers Karam and Kehkashan’s involvement in Fatima’s burning, as Abdul will be tried as a minor. (full context)
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...Priya is the first Annawadian called to the stand, which worries Kehkashan because Priya and Fatima were close. But Priya tells the truth on the stand, saying that she hadn’t seen... (full context)
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Fatima’s husband finally takes the stand. Kehkashan remembers how the Husains had celebrated the holiest Muslim... (full context)
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Fatima’s husband is sworn in, but he quickly becomes flustered at the prosecutor’s questions. After stumbling... (full context)
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The next witness is Fatima’s friend Cynthia. The Husains refused to pay Cynthia not to lie about the fight right... (full context)
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...give her enough time to tell her made-up story about how she tried to save Fatima. During the cross-examination, Cynthia gets tripped up in her own lies and the judge throws... (full context)
Chapter 15: Ice
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...innocence. The special executive officer tries to get the Husains to pay her to have Fatima’s husband call off the trial, hiding the fact that this is a criminal trial that... (full context)
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...beggars lining the road up to the mosque. He leaves quickly, reminded too much of Fatima. He prays that the courts will see him as ice, proclaiming him innocent despite the... (full context)
Chapter 17: A School, a Hospital, a Cricket Field
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Zehrunisa pays a Sufi mystic to see if Fatima’s ghost is responsible for dragging out Abdul’s case. The Sufi takes Zehrunisa’s money, assuring her... (full context)