Abdul’s family, the Husains, have enough money from their garbage trading business to build a brick wall between their shanty and the house next door. While most huts in Annawadi are made up of sheet metal and trash, the Husains are able to make their house a little more permanent by using stable building materials. This represents the slum residents’ desire to establish themselves as legitimate residents of the city of Mumbai, rather than temporary migrants who are just squatting on the land. The brick wall gives the appearance that the Husains have achieved this dream, but it’s not so simple—when Abdul chips into the wall to secure a shelf, he finds that the wall is completely crooked and so poorly constructed that the bricks crumble instead of supporting the shelf. Thus, the brick wall is emblematic not only of dreams, but also of the reality that any time the Husains attempt to improve their situation, the precarious conditions of the slum make it difficult to succeed.
Abdul also sees this crooked wall as a symbol for the “crooked” ethical system of Annawadi. Life in the slum does not reward living on the straight and narrow, as survival involves navigating and participating in corrupt institutions within and around the government. Just as Abdul cannot make a straight shelf on an off-kilter wall, Abdul cannot live by strict definitions of right and wrong when the entire basis of life in Annawadi depends on dishonest and exploitative practices.
Abdul’s Brick Wall Quotes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers
The four-foot gray slab was uneven, as was the floor, so the shelf wobbled perilously on two supports he'd built to hold it up. Nothing in this idiot house was straight. The only way to stabilize the shelf, and make it level, would be to cut into the brick wall, itself uneven, and cement the slab in place…
Abdul was dismayed. The readiness of the bricks to disintegrate, long suspected, was now confirmed. They'd been made with too much sand, and the mortar between them had deteriorated. Crap bricks that weren't even glued to one another-less a wall than a tremulous stack.