17 March 2015

Life in a slum in India

While I was in Mumbai in January, I took part in a walking tour of one of its biggest slums. I remember reading about these tours of Dharavi, one of Mumbai’s most population-dense neighbourhoods, when they started a few years ago and spawned a debate on ‘slum tourism’. “It’s voyeuristic to peek into poor peoples’ lives,” slammed some. “This is a reality of Indian cities, and how 55% of the population of Mumbai lives,” pointed out others. My take is that slums are certainly a facet of every Indian city and ignoring them won’t make them go away.  But I don’t know if I would have chosen to go one of these tours if I wasn’t researching a travel article on ‘off-beat’ walking tours in Mumbai...

05 March 2015

India travel tip: How to deal with staring in India

When my sister-in-law and her young daughter came to visit us while we were living in Bangalore, I took the little girl for a walk around the neighbourhood. Two minutes into our walk, she asked me: “Why is everyone staring at me?” I told her that people are not used to seeing a little white girl and that they were curious and intrigued but that they didn’t mean any harm. She wanted to go back inside!

One thing first time visitors to India can find very difficult to get used to is the almost constant staring they’re subject to. In Anglo-Saxon societies especially, staring is considered rude and can be interpreted as aggressive behaviour. For this reason, many foreigners are not used to being stared at, so this is a new experience which can make them feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable...