English & Marathi
YA & Up
Indian Culture & Identity
Castaway Mountain is an extremely detailed book that follows 4 families living on the outskirts of Mumbai, making a scant living by picking through the refuse that’s trucked in infinitely from the city. It’s a fascinating combination of a look at how so many make a living as well as a city’s attempt to reduce the literal mountains of waste (separated roughly by contents, dubbed ‘loops’) and displace the small settlements of waste pickers.
Author Saumya Roy followed these families for 8 years and diligently recorded the travails. The education (or lack of) that children may or may not have gotten, the injuries on the refuse hills, and the lingering health effects of the pollution and exposure to medical waste.
After bags are filled with different things (depending on the loop being worked, or the desired objects. Tin, thin plastic, valuables, fabric, etc.) things are sorted and sold. Some families organize and pay others to pick the waste, some manage to get trucks driving jobs, and some clean various scraps of cloth to sell to others.
It’s an entirely separate world, an economy based on what others discard. The juxtaposition of the waste-based economy and the bureaucracy of the Indian government when trying to contain the ever growing masses of trash truly showcases how marginalized people work outside of the system. When they’re perceived by said exclusionary system, the tenuous situation crumbles. I wouldn’t describe this book as one of overarching positivity, but it’s an extremely poignant book that gives a look into a world that most don’t know exist. Roy tackles the issue without judgement, and draws in the reader immediately.
This book was kindly sent by Astra Publishing House, but all opinions are my own.
Saumya Roy (2019) is a journalist and social activist from Mumbai. India. She has written for Outlook magazine, Mint newspaper, Forbes India, among other publications. She is the co- founder of Vandana Foundation, which supports livelihoods of micro entrepreneurs in Mumbai and rural India.