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What this tour is about:
In 2006, a chance encounter with three sisters – ragpickers from Dharavi - set us on a journey towards understanding Mumbai’s slums. As we questioned our own attitudes towards slum residents, we began writing about it, and sharing the insights with visitors. The result was this tour; a look at the people of Dharavi, their homes, their work places, and their way of life. This is not a “poverty" tour. It is a peek into an area bustling with activity, with an economy estimated to be worth more than US $ 500 million. It is also a chance to re-examine stereotypes of the third world, and do some introspection.

Some of the major themes that you will see on the Dharavi visit are:

  • Market-driven recycling: Unlike the West where recycling is enforced through regulation, India has a labour-intensive recycling industry with a sophisticated delivery chain from sourcing, treatment and reselling. Your guide will explain how the recycling chain is market-driven; i.e., it has a fine pricing mechanism that incentivizes households and businesses to recycle.
  • Urban Villages: Although urban life is usually associated with alienation and a sense of loss, here in Dharavi, there are urban villages with strong community ties through the land-use pattern, shared festivals and food. This results in the same cohesive living patterns that we see in villages. Behaviour is controlled by social norms and therefore there is no breakdown of law and order even in a slum.
  • Migration Mechanics: The world is urbanizing on a scale never recorded before. How do rural migrants fit into their new urban environment? Through speaking with ordinary people, we try to understand how multiple generations migrate to cities and their lifestyle changes. As a simple example, we will visit an innovative "movie multiplex" in Dharavi to see how it is geared to meet the needs of young men who come to the cities
  • Intelligent networked Markets: You can see how the needs of the various industries in Dharavi are met by other supporting industries within Dharavi. It is a self-sufficient, mutually interlinked market. Although there is no planned development of industry-zones as defined by conventional urban planners, the space is very sensibly organized to meet its own needs.
  • Co-operative movements and non-profits: We will see the papad-making industry which is entirely run as a women's cooperative. Here we see a living example of Gandhi's statement that India's millions can only progress when we encourage cottage industries.
  • The Third Face of Mumbai: The typical view of Mumbai is that it is a city of extremes. Overseas visitors usually go away with an impression of two bewilderingly different Mumbai’s - one that is rich and glitzy and safe in a five-star cocoon, and the other that lives a hellish life on the streets, begging, cringing, with no self-respect whatsoever. There is usually no room for an understanding of a third Mumbai - the Mumbai of the hard-working poor. The Mumbai of the aspiring migrant, with a fierce drive for survival, for self-improvement. The Mumbai of small enterprise. Dharavi is one place where this third Mumbai is visible. One of our guests summed this up very well, after a 2 hour visit to Dharavi. "To me, this place dispels the myth that poverty is due to laziness - that the poor somehow deserve their lot in life because they are lazy or stupid or otherwise lacking in some important character trait that the successful possess. Dharavi is a resounding rebuttal to that belief."

How it works:
The visit is led by college students who are local residents of Dharavi. We do not organize this Dharavi visit on a commercial basis. It is a community project to support a non-profit called Dharavi Art Room and some students who are trying to earn something to put themselves through college. 100% of your payment goes to them and we make no money from this tour. Photography is not allowed. If you are expecting extreme deprivation and despair based on movie depictions, you will be disappointed. In fact, this visit actively breaks stereotypical depictions of slums.

With local student leading the group – Rs 800 per person, groups of 6-8 persons. Rs 1200 for a solo traveler. Depending on your total group size we will make multiple sub-groups and assign one student per sub-group.

The price includes a local student who will take you around and all taxes. It includes a contribution to Dharavi Art Room, which works with children and women in Dharavi. Mumbai Magic does not make any money from this visit.

The price excludes transfers to/from your hotel. We can provide transfers if required.

How to book:
Please email deepa@mumbaimagic.com with the desired date, time and the number of people. We will check availability for your date and confirm. We will introduce you to the students who are running this activity.