Saumya Roy - “Castaway Mountain: Love and Loss Among Wastepickers of Mumbai”

Lecture Series

Monday, November 15, 2021

4:00PM - 5:00PM


Join the International House Global Voices Lecture Series and Seminary Co-op Bookstores for a conversation with Saumya Roy on her latest work, “Castaway Mountain: Love and Loss Among the Wastepickers of Mumbai.” She will be joined by Dr. Anup Malani, Lee and Brena Freeman Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.

About the book: All of Mumbai's possessions and memories come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains. Towering at the outskirts of the city, the mountains are covered in a faint smog from trash fires. Over time, as wealth brought Bollywood knock offs, fast food and plastics to Mumbaikars, a small, forgotten community of migrants and rag-pickers came to live at the mountains' edge, making a living by re-using, recycling and re-selling.

Among them is Farzana Ali Shaikh, a tall, adventurous girl who soon becomes one of the best pickers in her community. Over time, her family starts to fret about Farzana's obsessive relationship to the garbage. Like so many in her community, Farzana, made increasingly sick by the trash mountains, is caught up in the thrill of discovery--because among the broken glass, crushed cans, or even the occasional dead baby, there's a lingering chance that she will find a treasure to lift her family's fortunes.

As Farzana enters adulthood, her way of life becomes more precarious. Mumbai is pitched as a modern city, emblematic of the future of India, forcing officials to reckon with closing the dumping grounds, which would leave the waste pickers more vulnerable than ever.

In a narrative instilled with superstition and magical realism, Saumya Roy crafts a modern parable exploring the consequences of urban overconsumption. A moving testament to the impact of fickle desires, Castaway Mountain reveals that when you own nothing, you know where true value lies: in family, community and love.

About the author: Saumya Roy is a journalist and social entrepreneur from Mumbai. She has written for Outlook Magazine, Mint Newspaper and Forbes magazines among others. She then co- founded Vandana Foundation to support the livelihoods of microentrepreneurs. This is how she first met the waste pickers of Mumbai's Deonar garbage mountains. She stayed on to chronicle their lives for eight years. Through their stories she has told a tale of overconsumption, pollution and climate change. She received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center, Blue Mountain Center, Carey Institute for Global Good and Sangam House for writing Castaway Mountain.

About the interlocutor: Anup Malani is the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and a Professor at the Pritzker School of Medicine. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Boston. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has served on the boards of the Becker-Friedman Institute, the Neubauer Collegium and the University of Chicago Press. Malani was the founding Faculty Director of the Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago. He conducts research in law and economics, health economics, and development economics.

You can purchase Castaway Mountain: Love and Loss Among the Wastepickers of Mumbai from Seminary Co-op Bookstores for $28.

This event is presented by International House and Seminary Co-op Bookstores.