I have worked with a good deal of NGO’s in India over the years but never in Mumbai so, I was keen to get involved and experience how organisations work in this city that is known for its extreme’s of wealth and poverty and for the fact that 55% of the population live in a slum of some sort.
In doing some research I came across Reality Tours which is a company that offers tours of one of the biggest slums in Asia, Dharavi (See Steph’s blog A life different than your own), the tour was something we really wanted to do, and I also discovered that they have a NGO arm called Reality Gives which takes 80% of their profits and re-invests them into the community in Dharavi, including a community centre, education program’s and other classes for kids and adults alike.
After reaching out and offering my services to work on a photography project to document the work they do, I received an email back thanking me for the offer, but rather than photographing the Dharavi tour, they had a couple of other tours that they needed better marketing material for to help grow the tour business and subsequently help grow the financial impact of the NGO in Dharavi.
This was great and as a result Steph and I received 3 complimentary tours to go out and enjoy Mumbai in all its glory. Some of you might have noticed that Steph was in many photographs from the Mumbai Gallery, the reason being that she was my model!!
The two tours that I was set to photograph on were a Public Transport Tour and a Markets Tour around the city, we also had the Dharavi tour but Steph will write more about that.
So we were met first thing on the day of these two tours by a very happy go lucky chap by the name of Aky, a mere 19 and he had a lifetime of experiences to his short life already. He took us on our adventure around the city. Although Steph and I had already become dab hands at the rail travel we did not let on and allowed him to take us on his journey around Mumbai to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.
Aky informed us the aim of the tour was to go point to point on the public transport network; Bus -> Train -> Train-> Taxi -> Taxi, in between we were going to visit the Victoria Terminus Train (CST) Station an impressive colony era relic, Dadar flower market, thieves market (Chor Bazaar), Dhobi Ghat, where the cities laundry is done and finally ending up at Churchgate station to see all the Dabbawallahs arrive with their lunches.
The tour was awesome and we got to experience so much more and understand so much more than just our mere commutes on the trains. We even got to sample some street food, which for our parents reading this are probably horrified, but Aky told us he does not eat at all places but he can tell when there is a safe and good vendor. He explained ‘where there is a queue and people get seconds’ so, I went for it, samosas and a vegetable curry patty burger which was awesome, so good I had two! Steph also indulged once she saw I had not dropped dead!
Later in the day we met Aky at Crawford Market and headed off for our tour of the market which would then lead us into the back streets visiting multiple street markets and shops, various temples and mosques and even the Bombay Panjrapole, a welfare city farm for 400 cows. The markets were very interesting offering a wide range of products, but the most interesting was the pet part of the market, if PETA or the RSPCA found their way in here they would have a field day! I have to say it was a little sad at first so see all these animals caged and in such numbers, but after a while of wandering around you see the shop owners do care for the animals and they are well looked after!
Wandering around the streets with Aky was again a great experience and we learned so much, as we crisscrossed the area walking through street markets and alleyways, into Hindu and Jain temples and past Mosques. It was a true Mumbai experience everyone was moving and everything was a splash of colour, it was a great opportunity for photography, the only thing you could not capture was the sounds and smells that infused and melted through the senses!
At the end of it all we had a fantastic day with Aky in which we had really gotten to grips and seen Mumbai in all its glory, albeit for a brief moment…..And the photographs were not too shabby either!!
For more information on Reality Tours please visit their website here and if you ever visit Mumbai its one thing that I highly recommend you do not miss out on. And coming soon will be the tour information supplemented by my fine photographs and Steph’s fine modeling! If you are interested in donating towards the good work the NGO Reality Gives does please visit here. Coming soon.