Reading the Telegraph’s story, Slumdog Millionaire: Mumbai’s real slumdogs, I’m thinking no, there can’t really be tours of the slums of Mumbai. Why?
Reality Tours believes, “that Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia, is one of the most interesting places to see in Mumbai.” The tour offers to, “break down the negative image of Dharavi (and India’s slums) and its residents,” and to “bring people of different countries, races, religions and social classes together to increase understanding and empathy.” Hmm. The tour is ten bucks per person for the “short tour” or twenty for the “long tour” or you can opt for the “private long tour” for $80 bucks if you’d rather not have the company.
So there’s two sides to this (at least). Certainly the issues we never see never get addressed, so perhaps some good could come of it. And then, the fact that we’re so disconnected from one another that we need to take a tour to shock us into action is probably just the state of the state currently. Perhaps the US election will bear out that we hit compassion’s low point with the Bush Administration and my HOPE is that a new cloud-clearing era has arrived. Hope.
I don’t think the tour should be on the itinerary though. Volunteering seems a step in the right direction. I know there are a host of issues surrounding even that: “Gap-year ‘voluntourists’ told not to bother” outlines many of the hurdles there. But still, helping has to be better than watching.
I support Kiva where I can help people to help themselves with loans (micro) that have an amazing track record for repayment, and I choose the person with whom I want to ‘invest”. For the cost of a slum tour I have the chance instead to help someone start a sustainable business.