Scavengers, Today’s Trendiest Tourist Attractions

March 30, 2009 at 7:46 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

dharavi-773555Now this is creepy. Or is it?

The hottest new travel trend is “poortainment” — e.g., watching destitute people in exotic places scavenge to survive. Slumdog Millionaire so romanticized abject poverty, presenting the poor as feisty self-reliant survivors, that companies around the world now offer guided tours of slums, townships and dumps, according to Aneel Karnani in the Business Standard.

India’s Reality Tours and Travel offers “Dharavi Slum Tours.” (The company’s homepage won’t open at the moment, possibly because it has been deluged after lots of recent press.) Dharavi is the Mumbai slum featured in Slumdog. According to Karnani, it has only one toilet for every 1,440 people: Watching the film, “the viewers flinch, but do not smell the stench.”

Karnani marvels that other travel companies are offering “guided tours of a favela in Rio de Janeiro … a visit to the township of Soweto, [a chance to] see scavengers living off garbage dumps in Mazatlan, or observe street children live in and around Delhi’s main railway station.”

But at least one organization claims to be doing this for the right reasons. The Salaam Balak Trust charity leads tours “of the street life of Delhi” as a “salute to the spirit of survival.” According to the trust’s web site, “Nobody knows Delhi’s streets better than the young people who are fully trained as guides. These spirited youngsters will take you on a tour while sharing with you the journey of their lives…. It’s a unique way of engaging people in the lives of children in distress. The walk also provides an opportunity for the young people to improve their communication and speaking skills. All proceeds go directly to the trust to enable more opportunities to be made for street children… The walk is not a slum tour because we do not go into a slum at any time and photos are not allowed.”

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