Slum Tourism

I saw a news item today on television. The success of 'Slumdog Millionaire' has piqued people's interest in what is being termed as 'Slum Tourism'. This essentially means that people visiting Mumbai take a deko at Mumbai slums, usually Dharavi.

I can only say that this HORRIFIES me! Slums are a glaring indicator of our country's inability to live upto its responsibilty of taking care of its citizens. Where people live sub human lives without access to basic facilities essential to live a dignified life. And this warrants tourism?!

One could perhaps understand why foreign tourists might want to see such sights. Perhaps out of a morbid fascination to know how the 'other side' lives. Much like watching a horror movie - you dont really want to see it (coz it scares the living daylights out of you) but you can't seem to help it. You watch...comforted in the idea that you can walk out of the theatre once the show is over and forget all about it.

But how does one account for Indians, indeed Mumbaikars, wanting a taste of this terrible tourism? The news feature had members of the middle class expressing their interest in wanting to 'learn how people in slums live' and a pretty reporter exolting the delights of slum tourism. Here is a footpath dwelling, made with cardboard and scrap. One can learn so much from these slum dwellers about recycling. And over there is a toilet block that over 100 people use. What happens when the drains clog up you ask? Well, there is always open defecation. Wonderful way to commune with nature. There you see women lined up to fill pots with drinking water. Hang around and you may get the opportunity to learn some choice expletives in various regional languages.

Have we become so dead as a nation that we get our jollies out of the suffering of our fellow citizens? Is there no end to this commercialisation?

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5 Responses to Slum Tourism

  1. did you see the link i posted on my facebook page to an LA Times story about how some indians are upset about the success of "slumdog millionaire" because they say it glorifies the view of india as overrridden by slums?? i have to say that i liked the film, but maybe that's because i'm an American and can't be expected to know any better... ;-)

    see if you can get to the link here:

  2. Deepa says:

    I have no quarrel with the movie. Saw and liked it. What I object to is making poverty into a profit making venture that seems to have followed in the wake of the movie.

  3. shilpa says:

    May I play devil's advocate here? At a very naive level, is all the exposure such a bad thing?
    1) Dharavi dwellers are where they are. Don't see what they gain by being Mumbai's dirty little secret. Could they potentially partake in this short term profit making venture?
    2) The world media attention may help since politicians like to project India abroad as this now whitewashed tech haven.
    3) The news channels make money.Being a capitalist at heart, consider this in general a good thing.

    Like your blog, very sharp and incisive. Going to post this on my facebook page.

  4. Deepa says:

    By all means play the devil's advocate. Be warned though that I'm not at heart - or in any other body part - a capitalist. Officially, I go by " left of centre " leanings. In my humble and insignificant opinion:
    1. Dharavi dwellers maybe dirty - but they certainaly arent a secret. In my student days, I have worked in these slums. They could give us lessons on survival.
    2. The world media would be interested to help you say? Indeed - I noticed how they fell over themselves to help after Salaam Bombay, Water and other 'socially relevant' movies made it big in the west.
    3. News channels are welcome to continue making money. But lets have some ethics please. Even a capitalist cannot deny that!!

  5. Shilpa says:

    ouch..didn't mean 'dirty little secret' in a derogatory sense. Having once been in the 100 people 5 toilets type situation, albeit briefly, have a high regard for survival skills developed in that situation.
    The definition of'ethics'is relatively fluid and what might seem exploitative to one might seem fine/acceptable/relevant to another. Was just trying to drive that point. Even a leftist cannot deny that!!
    Rest of this discussion in person I hope!