RTW Trip Mumbai, India Day 73: Touring the Slums of Slumdog Millionaire by Day, and an Indian Movie Experience by Night

What’s great about Mumbai, is that it really is a mix of everything here.  You can go to really expensive restaurants that have dress code, or have some of Mumbai’s famous street eats.  While India may not be for everyone, I really think Mumbai could be an easy place to live, since there are so many food choices here.

Even though we had only been in Mumbai for two nights, after a walk along the beach watching couples canoodle, we were wanting to grab a bite close to where we were, and ended up at Lonely Planet recommended Relish Restaurant.

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Glow in the dark pasta?

This restaurant specialized in fusion dishes, and had a rather fancy atmosphere with so many waiters ready to serve your food and pour your drinks for you.  We got the Fusilli Pomodoro and the Singapore Sidewalk, which was veggies with sweet and sour sauce.  I thought it was pretty mediocre, but Greg quite liked it.  The service was perhaps a little over attentive, but I guess some people like that.  I think I may have gotten one of the waiters in trouble for pouring my own drink!

We had signed up for a Dharavi slum tour with Reality Tours & Travel, which takes groups through the same slum that was featured in the Danny Boyle film, Slumdog Millionaire.  This tour puts a lot of the fees towards their school and the community, and also does not allow photography on their tour.  The company we went with, meets you at the train station, and everyone rides on the local train to the slum.  We met a couple other tourists, some from Ireland who happened to live in Queens, NY, and a couple of native New Yorkers who now lived in Israel.

Greg taking the train to Dharavi Slums

Greg taking the train to Dharavi Slums

Walking through the slum was a strange experience.  While I love taking photographs, I felt like I was gawking at them and their neighborhood, which felt rather evasive and really reminded me of the time I went to visit hill tribes in Thailand.  I wondered if the paths we took through the slum, through narrow streets peeking into people’s tiny, windowless homes, were the same routes that each tour took.  The company we went with is supposedly the original Dharavi slum tour group, but we did see another tour group from a different company.  How many companies will there be in 5 years?  Will they put money towards the community?  How do local residents feel about this?

Living in New York, you get used to seeing rats everywhere.  Surprisingly, in my two month in India, I only saw 4, and all of them were in Dharavi slum.  The streets were definitely dirtier than the streets outside the slum, but to be honest, if I had wandered in here myself, I probably wouldn’t have realized that I was in fact, in a slum.  People are working in leather dyeing factories, and are involved in a lot of recycling of plastics.  We were told that many people work in this slum, and that some are even teachers and doctors, and refuse to leave the slum since this is where they come from.

The people of the slum were friendly and of course curious, and the children enjoyed interacting with us tourists.  It was a very powerful tour, and I was happy to actually see the English school the company built, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the residents though of being gawked at by groups of tourists twice a day.

After the tour, we stopped off for some snacks and drinks at Cafe Universal, a cute pub-like place comfortable enough for females to spend some time.

We had a real treat in the evening.  When I don’t watch movies for a long time, I don’t feel human. We opted to catch a great Keanu Reeves film called John Wick for a fraction of the price of admission in the States.  It felt like a regular movie experience in the States, with the exception of the following:
-We had to check our camera batteries at the door so we would not engage in pirating activity.
-You could get movie popcorn, snacks and drinks delivered to your seat.
-We had to stand up at the beginning of the film and watch the Indian flag on the screen, while their national anthem played.
-There was an intermission in the middle of the movie in case you needed to go to the toilet or grab more snacks.
-Every time someone smoked onscreen, there was a warning written on the screen saying that they ‘do not promote smoking,’ and that ‘smoking is injurious to your health.’

Other than that, it felt like any other movie experience, but for super cheap!

cabcollageCosts:
Water 20 rupees
Coconut 35 rupees
Slum tour 1600 rupees Reality Tour and Travel of Dharavi slum
Lunch at Relish Restaurant: pasta, noodle dish, mirinda, pepsi 795 rupees
Taxi 100 rupees
Tip for Dinesh 200 rupees
Cafe Universal 650 rupees
John Wick 760 rupees Big Cinema Marine Lines
Water in Dharavi 18 rupees
Ice cream at movie 130 rupees
Elphinstone Annexe Hotel $34

Total cost: 4308 rupees + $34 = $102.89 / 2 = $51.45 per person

What I learned: Whenever you can, break your larger bills as often as possible, and keep your small bills.  It will be an ongoing battle, as getting change for large bills in India can be difficult.  Make sure your bills are in decent condition and are not ripped or taped back up as currency is useless in India when ripped or taped up.

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A convenient store in Mumbai

Actual date of travel: Nov. 15, 2014

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