The Un-Tourist

If you have been following this blog, you probably know that I was in India this past March, researching and interviewing for the book as well as visiting my kids for two weeks in the Miracle Foundation homes.

While in Mumbai in early March, I visited Dharavi, widely known as the biggest slum in Asia. Dharavi is a bustling place, filled with cottage industries and entrepreneurs. I wrote a post about it here.

The Hindustan Times newspaper in India recently interviewed me about my experience in Dharavi, and with Deepa Krishnan who showed me around and educated me on the place. The resulting article is called “The Un-Tourist,” and it is a fascinating glimpse into a burgeoning industry, where travelers are choosing to go off the packaged tourist trail in order to meet the local people and visit the places where real lives are lived. The photos are great as well!

As Deepa wrote about the visits she takes people on to Dharavi:

There is no avoiding the poor in Mumbai. The slums are all-pervasive. In many parts of the city, there are shanties by the roadside. There are the homeless – they are dirty and unkempt, living on the pavements. For overseas visitors, the image this creates is of two bewilderingly different Mumbais – one that is rich and glitzy and safe in their five-star cocoon, and the other that lives a hellish life on the streets, begging, cringing, with no self-respect whatsoever.

There is no room for an understanding of a third Mumbai – the Mumbai of the hard-working poor. The Mumbai of the aspiring migrant, with his fierce drive for survival, for self-improvement. The Mumbai of small enterprise. The Mumbai of cottage industries. The Mumbai of poor yet strong women, running entire households on the strength of their income from making papads. Every morning, these women put food on the table, braid their daughters’ hair, and send them to schools. They have hope for the future, you see? This is the Mumbai of dreams, which I want my guests to see.

Dharavi is one place where this third Mumbai is visible. In the papad units, in the little tailoring shops, in Kumbharwada, in the kirana grain stores, everywhere Dharavi displays a spirt that is fierce and energetic. Every time my overseas visitors go into Dharavi, they come back with a first-hand insight into this third Mumbai.

I agree. In Dharavi, it was amazing to see the grace and nobility with which life was lived. Thank you, Deepa.

You can read the Hindustan Times article at “The Un-Tourist.”

About Shelley Seale

Shelley is a wanderer and student of the world, yoga chick, voracious reader and dog lover. She pounds the keyboard as a freelance writer, author and publication designer, based in Austin, Texas when she isn't traipsing around the globe. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, Fodor's, The Telegraph and Texas Monthly, among others. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano, and was once robbed by a monkey in India. But she doesn’t know how to whistle.

Posted on September 29, 2007, in India, shelley seale and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Sandy Seale "Mom"

    That’s awesome….loved the enlightening article “The Un-Tourist”. I’m still the proudest mom in the world to have such a compassionate daughter who puts her concerns into action to help effect change. The world can only grow & prosper (and I don’t mean materialistically) when we become aware of the gross neglect of our most precious resource….the children who are our future. I sincerely believe that you will be a part of those changes and help light the way for the world to see what goes on while we sit comfortable & well-fed in our “lap of luxury”.

  2. Shelley – I wrote a response to that article, it’s here:

    – Deepa

  3. Very true. For that matter there is this book Maximum City by Suketu Mehta which talks of mumbai. It is a fascinating book and with a small flight of imagination you can take a book to a higher level and feel that it echoes the India of today. It primarily written for mumbai but indeed it is a kaleidoscopic view not just of mumbai but that of entire India. And do check it out to learn about the third face of mumbai. It has discussed it in good detail.

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