Recently I had an opportunity to visit India on a short holiday. I ‘ve always dreamed of seeing the Taj Mahal in person. I can remember in school learning about the Taj Mahal and it’s architecture, wondering how deeply a man must truly love a woman to honor her in such way. Needless to say I was very excited to see it and decided to save that part of my trip for the end. As you read my highlights from my trip to India below, let me tell you that India surprised me in many ways. While I would recommend you visit India, I would say 4 days was more than enough for me and satisfied my curiosity about the country.
The preparation for my trip to India was very simple. I used a travel agency referred to me by a friend (“World of Bollywood Tours and Travel”) and the owner Rahil Kahn planned my trip to include booking my hotel accomadations and all of my internal flights. Next, I quiered all my friends who had visited the country before on ways I could prevent the infamous “Dheli Belly.” Now, I will tell you that I have yet to meet many people who have visited India and did not get sick while there. So, in knowing that I have the weakest digestive system ever, I started taking probiotics a week prior to my trip. On the referrals from my friends, I packed medications for diarrhea and vomititing as well as insect pray, plenty of hand sanitizer and alohol based wipes. All packed, I was ready for my 3hr flight Mumbai. Oh, I escaped the Dheli Belly Thank God!
My trip to India began with Mumbai. To say Mumbai is a busy city is an understatement. Once I landed in Mumbai and began to navigate the city in my taxi, I was amazed at how much traffic there was. I am told that 25 million people live in Mumbai and out of that 25million, 5 million of them own cars. Needless to say, I believe I met all 5 million of those people on the streets of Mumbai. Taking in the sites on the way to my first hotel, I noticed instantly the streets of Mumbai was totally saturated with people and cars. I would equate this to the 405 in LA, but I believe the traffic in Mumbai moves much faster than LA traffic; if you can imagine that. The people of Mumabi are friendly and very sociable. They work during the day, but I promise you they make up for it at night when the sun goes down. Even after 12am I saw many people and little children walking about and enjoying the night life.
The Dharavi Slums was definitley one of the highlights of my trip to India. Yes…you heard me right lol, I said visiting the slums was one of the hightlights of this trip. This was a last minute addition to my itenary that was recommedned by a friend and I’m so glad I added Dharavi to this trip . The tour was 2 hours in total. I was greeted by a young graduate student by the name of Oves who was my tour guide. Oves began by laying out the do’s and dont’s for me. Where I could and could not take picutres, not to make faces at various smells (so I wouldn’t offend people) and most of all not to forget his name, LOL!
Pictured above: Oves and I at the entrance into the Dharavi Slums
At first sight the Dharavi slums looks like a trash dump site…and in actuality it is in a sense; but if you keep moving, you’ll see something much deeper than that. I say a dump site because most of the cities trash is brought to the Dharavi slums. In the Dharavi slums alone it is estimated that at least 1 billion USD is generated every year. 1 billion you say…How? Through recylcing. The Dharavi slums is an industrial work hourse. Just about everything and I mean “everything” is recyled there. Plastic, paint cans, car bumpers, alluminum, leather….in the words of Shirley Ceasar, “you name it.” I had the privilige to walk through the slums and see the men and women at work recyling all of the above. I also was able to see men preparing leather to make purses and wallets, making suitcases, and sewing various garments. I even bought a couple of leather bags that were made in the Dharvi slums.
Pictured above: Leather bag made in the slums, View of the Dharavi slums, washing of plastic pieces, recycling of leather pieces, melting pit for aluminum and aluminum molds.
For about 1 million people, the Dharavi slums is home. Honestly, after my tour, I was both amazed and ashamed. Why? because I had let the images of “Slum Dog Millionaire” and the media define the slums for me as poverty, uneducated, poor and a place of suffering. However, looks can truly be deceiving. The Dharavi slums is a community, its a home. No, its not my neighborhood and it maybe not be yours, but it is theirs, and it is something the people should be proud of. The people of the Dharavi slums are not begging for money and they don’t considered themselves to be suffering . Their hard workers who work and earn paychecks like the rest of us. As you navigate through the slums it feels like an industrial plant: one person cuts the plastics, another separates it by color, another then washes it and another person puts it out to dry. As you move toward the residential side, it feels more like a community. The streets are filled with men, women and children just like any other community. You can see the familiar routine of the husbands at work, the children at school and the wives tending to their homes. There are markets, movie houses, temples of worship and schools for the children, all there in their community.
If you still dont believe anything good can come out of the slums, then take Oves as an example. Oves is a graduate student working on his masters and works to pay for school. He is a very smart and intelligent youngn man. Sounds much like an average person right? Well Oves was born, raised and currently lives in the slums. This reminds me of Nathanael’s question in John 1:46…”Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” I say Absolutely!
More pics from India: Victorious Terminus railway station (3 million people use this per day), Gateway of India, Haji Ali Dargah (Mosque on the water), Antilia (most expensive house in the world), Rajabai Clock Tower (Big Ben), In front of the Taj Hotel with my friend and guide, Rahil.
If you enjoyed this post, stay tune for part II of my trip to India where I will share the highlights from my visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the outdoor Laundry Mat in Mumbai.