The Times of India carried an interesting piece this morning, by Brigida Viggiano, who chronicles her experience as a slum tourist venturing into Mumbai’s famous slum – Dharavi. You can add it to your list of things to do in your next trip to India, the ” The Dharavi walk” would cost Rs. 800 (which ironically also includes air-conditioned transfers to and from the entrance of the slum)
Honestly, I was slightly disgusted when I first heard about this global phenomenon (other slum tourist hot spots include Rio, South Africa and Mexico City). Having spent a couple of my weekends in Dharavi during my stint in Mumbai, I come to believe that the tourists are (hopefully) interested in seeing a little more than the pathetic living conditions. The article for instance mentions the unique economic aspects of the slum:
There were two figures that Girish kept repeating during the tour: 10,000, which is the number of small-scale industries operating in Dharavi, and USD 665 million, which is the annual turnover Dharavi’s residents are estimated to generate. What thrilled me the most, personally, was that I could not find even one person who wasn’t working: the slum dwellers were so engrossed that most failed to even notice that a group of foreign tourists was in their midst.
What also changed my perception of ‘slum tourism’ a little-bit is also the words by a member of an organization working in Dharavi for thirty years, quoted in the piece
I asked her whether she thought her slum-dwellers would have been offended by tourists walking around their houses. Her answer was rather surprising: “Sometimes people come with us to see what a slum means and how we work to improve living conditions. Slum-dwellers are already used to and, indeed, even welcome visitors, since they want them to understand how things have changed over the last few years. They want to shed the label of ‘slum-dweller’ or rather the negative connotation it has.”
So, whats your take on ‘Slum Tourism’. Is it an innovative idea that could bring about better living conditions in these communities or just a smart entrepreneur making some money?