After returning from our night of working in the film industry we slept for about 5 hours and headed over to Elephant Island. We were not about to let staying up all night keep us from seeing more of Mumbai. Plus, I was sick the day we arrived so we had already missed a day of exploring.
Elephant Island is about an hours boat ride from Mumbai and features old temple carvings. The old temple and the hill here are melded together as one and are fun to explore. Like many of the old temples we’ve been to, there are monkeys everywhere, so we had to keep a firm grip on our cameras and belongings.
One of our favorite things about the stint in Mumbai was the chance to fill up on comfort foods in pretty restaurants. So far in the trip we have eaten great food and have usually been able to eat whatever type of food we’ve been craving. I’ve yet to tire of Indian food and I think the reason is that I haven’t been forced to eat it every single day.
The excitement of eating in Mumbai, wasn’t just that the food was really good (and it was!) it was the comfortable scenery that the eating took place in. We found ourselves planning our days around which bistro and restaurant we wanted to try out and savoring delicious salads, sandwiches and pastas. And desserts!
Don’t worry we still ate plenty of street food and Indian food during our time in Mumbai.
We spent our last day in Mumbai doing the activity I had looked forward to the most- the slum tour. The slum tour is run by an NGO called Reality Gives, which works on education projects in the largest slum of Mumbai, Dharavi.
Reality Gives conducts the slum tour in an effort to correct misconceptions about life in the slums, such as the violence or laziness of the people who live there. 55% of Mumbai’s population lives in slums and Dharavi is its largest with over a million people living on 0.7 square miles of land. The tour did not allow pictures, in order to respect the privacy of the residents. The tour cost 500 rupees, 80% of which went directly to NGO projects in the slum.
Dhavari is divided into two main sections, the commercial section and the residential section. In the commercial section there are several businesses, such as plastics, soap making, clothing and leather, where people work around 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for a meager wage in comparison to the mark up on the products when they are sold. The businesses are owned by outside owners and the workers come from all over India to make money for their families. Most of the workers cannot afford to rent a place in the slum (about 2000 rupees a month) so they sleep on mats in the factory at night.
The residential section is filled with small apartments and families. Around the slum there are children playing cricket, studying for classes and women making treats to sell. What isn’t there is a sense of fear. Our tour guide said that the slum generally is not a violent place. There is a sense of community there and trouble makers are generally kicked out.
This is a problem that residents of the slum had with the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The movie was very popular in India and was filmed partly in the slum that we visited. Residents felt like the movie was not an accurate portrayal of life in the slum because it only showed the dirty parts of the slum and showed violence which they say is not there.
So if you can’t tell from all the writing here, I really enjoyed the slum tour and highly recommend it to anyone passing through Mumbai.