Want to see Mumbai’s underbelly? Take a guided tour!
I never thought that Dharavi could ever be a tourist attraction, inspite of it being Asia’s largest slum. 😯 Well, it just shows how ignorant one can get about what’s happening in one’s own country…!
Apparently Prince Charles and ex-President Clinton started the trend. They had Dharavi and other slum areas on their itinerary (not to simply gawk I am sure)…and Gregory David Roberts, who wrote the novel Shantaram, (a part of which was set in the mumbai slums) gets some credit too as interest in Mumbai’s slums increased after it was published.
A travel agency promoted by a former British social worker takes tourists on a guided tour of Dharavi, Kamathipura, (the city’s red-light area), and Dhobi Ghat. The picture below is of Mumbai’s dhobi ghat.
Dhobi Ghat by the way, has always been a tourist attraction. In fact foreign tourists have gone gaga over the unique experience. Now, why did I ever think that the dhobi ghat was a boring place…? Could it be because I used to pass it on the way to school every day (in Pune)? The picture below is the dhobi ghat in Pune. Small compared to the Mumbai one…
Mumbai’s dhobi ghat has been termed by a westerner as a “vast al fresco washing machine.”
But let’s be fair to Dhobi Ghat…it is the largest laundry in Asia after all. Half a million items washed a day. What?? 😮
By the way, dhobis are not at all averse to a the gawking…in fact last year they demanded that the municipal corporation give the ghat a shine to improve tourism!
Unfortunately, the days of the dhobi ghat might be numbered. It’s not just Dharavi which is all set to redevelop into swanky multi-storied buildings. Dhobi Ghat is in danger too as the dhobis do not own the land, and builders are eyeing it. 😕
Are slum tours ethical?
While taking a tour of the Dhobi ghat may be alright, taking a tour through a slum, peeking into people’s misery, is a concept that makes me uneasy. It’s different if one is a researcher, a writer even, or a social worker…but to simply go and stare? As it says here:
It is a matter of disgrace for any society that claims to be a civilisation to mint money by exhibiting poverty and exposing slum dwellers to the pity of tourists. These residents are forced to exist in uninhabitable conditions because of mismanagement by the authorities. We should at least spare them the ignominy of being reduced to objects of pity.
Slum dwellers don’t seem to mind it, but does that make it right? But I know that I would never ever go on a slum tour, whether here or in any other country. We are a poor country and no one is denying it…but to make an exhibition of the poverty?
(The aerial view of Dharavi as well as Pune’s dhobi ghat are photos taken by me. The one of Mumbai’s dhobi ghat is from grant.org and the one inside of the slum is from dna )
Related Reading: The positive side of Dharavi
An aerial view of Mumbai city
Indians are the one of the most hardworking people in the world
Instead of making the rich poorer lets make the poor richer
Government officials used slum development funds to fatten their perks!
Plans to rid Mumbai of slums by 2015
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