Asia’s largest slum Dharavi emerges as a popular tourist attraction
In the heart of the coastal city of Mumbai, resides a place that people like to call their home, Dharavi. Dubbed as Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavi is the land where millions of refugees take shelter, and many fisherfolks and migrant workers who came to Mumbai to chase their dreams, have settled down.
Can you believe that this slum has turned into India’s favorite tourist attraction? The slum has topped the list for the best travel experiences in India, beating the famous Taj Mahal! But what do tourists like the most about this place? Let’s find out.
What attracts the tourists to this place?
Dharavi is not just a slum where the dwellers survive under adverse conditions and unhygienic surroundings; it is a community where people from different religions co-exist together in the shanties. If you think tourists visit here only to gawk at the misery of the underprivileged, then you’re wrong. In fact, these Dharavi tours offer a unique experience to tourists.
The tour groups consist of 5 to 6 visitors, who are guided through the cramped alleys. The tourists witness a new life in the slum, which is not seen anywhere else. It is an educational tour that acquaints the outsiders with the hard work that these impoverished people put in to earn their livelihood. The tourists get inspired and awestruck as they see underprivileged people barely making ends meet in the maze of bustling streets, beside open sewers.
The energy, conviction and dedication with which these people struggle is what draws the attention of the visitors towards the local and cultural side of India.
Does tourism boom help the dwellers in any way?
With the rising influx of tourists, the largest slum has exposed the youth to new financial opportunities. As November and May is the peak season, youngsters are encouraged to learn foreign languages to communicate with the multi-lingual tourists and escort them during the tour for a little extra income.
Life at Dharavi
Since its inception in 1882, Dharavi has expanded into a commercial township. It is now a thriving hub for industrial craftmanship. There are many artists hidden inside the slum, who are proficient in the art of textiles, recycling, making fried snacks, pottery, leather tanning, embroidery, and handicrafts. These petty jobs might earn them only a few pennies, but evoke a sense of identity and belongingness among them.
Cinema’s love for Dharavi
Indian and American cinema has always been fascinated with such real-life subjects that portray the unseen side of the nation. Films like ‘Salaam Bombay,’ ‘Dharavi,’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, were shot in Dharavi slum and brought the stereotyped image of slums on the big screens by typecasting the characters.
(A still from the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’)
But the latest Zoya Akhtar’s film ‘Gully Boy’ captures Dharavi as a civilization that’s happy and content with what it has, and how the people fight if someone tries to snatch that away from them. Remember the scene where a group of tourists are on a ‘slum tour’? That’s the true representation of how slum tourism has flourished in Dharavi.
The reason people from various spectrums of life visit Dharavi is the simplicity and integrity with which these slum dwellers accept the harsh realities of life and muster the strength to rise and conquer.