Slumming it up in Mumbai

Whilst most places in the world try to highlight their very best in order to attract visitor, there’s an organisation in Mumbai which is keen to show you that city’s worst.

Mumbai’s Dharavi Slum is one of the biggest slums in the world, and certainly the biggest slum in Asia.

Spread over just 175 hectares, the population of Dharavi is estimated to be in the vicinity of one million people, but it would be almost impossible to get an accurate figure.  The streets are narrow and very busy, and the stench is said to be incredibly foul.  It’s not the sort of place most of us would choose to visit four our honeymoons, but there is an organisation which does promote tours of Dharavi Slum, and, from all reports, it is certainly an eye opening experience.

Be The Local Tours and Travel uses local students who are residents of Dharavi to guide visitors around the slum.

Now, there are warnings and advice that go with the tour. They include suggestions that participants wear covered shoes and that women dress modestly.  There is also the good practical advice to be cautious and aware of low roofs, open drains, and hanging wires, mainly in the small alleys.  Also, participants are warned not to take valuables with them, and there is a strict `no camera’ policy, so as to preserve the privacy of the residents.    

By all reports the slum is actually very interesting and may dispel any preconceived idea of what an Indian slum is really like.  Apparently, there is a lot of industry inside the slum, where the residents are massive recyclers.  Also, life may not be as dismal for the residents as you may possibly think as the slum is littered with makeshift cinemas and small restaurants, schools and people making the best out of what others may consider to be a fairly miserable existence.

On the tour you will be guided by the local student of Dharavi, who will be fluent in English. With their in depth knowledge you experience the sights and sounds of Dharavi as only a local would.  Apparently, there is a large police presence inside Dharavi, and it is a safe tour, as long as you abide by the above safety advice.

These tours provide a way for students to earn an income, so have a lot of community benefit. Be The Local Travel and Tours is owned by two of those students.  Presently, many students are forced to take full time work and give up their studies.  The philosophy behind Be The Local is to hire students of Dharavi and give them a part time job with a very good salary so that they may continue with their education, and also help their family financially.

Sp, if you do decide to take the tour, you not only get to learn something about India which most visitors miss, you are provided a means for some of those slum residents to gain a better life for themselves and their families, and that is a worthwhile cause, and a great reason to do the tour.

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