If anytime you notice a foreigner passing through the Mumbai slums, don't just assume s/he is there to click a selfie, make a documentary or record the lifestyle of people. They may be 'living' there.
*Wait, what? Foreigners staying in slums?*
Yes, Ravi Sansi along with his fellow companion David Bijl have planned Mumbai's first Slum Homestay in which Ravi's family will host foreign tourists.
Shocked? Well, catch the next wave as the peculiarities of this project that I am about to share with you will for sure blow your mind. For the beginning, know that though the guest will be given various facilities, they are supposed to use the toilet facility as the rest of the slum. Yes, they will have to use public toilets which are shared by more than 50 other families.
In 2015, while Ravi Sansi was selling maps on the Linking Road, Mumbai, he met a tourist from Singapore. On her request to see some scenic spots, he took her to the jhopadpatti area. She lived with the 19-member family in their one-room tenement.
"She slept in the same bed as my bhabhi, learned to cook and would wash her clothes sitting with my mother in the doorway," says Sansi according to The Times of India. "She cried when she left because she was so happy to have met me."
David Bijl, a colleague of Ravi Sansi who works with him in the same non-profit project that hired Ravi after Google Maps disposed off his job of selling paper maps. Ravi's family appreciated the idea as they were in need of funds. They decided to cost a couple Rs.2,000 for spending a day at their home.
David is from the Netherlands, and he believes that all the foreigners who wish to understand the inequality of the city need to understand slum life.
"Visitors come in, take a few snapshots for their Facebook page and go off without really understanding anything, I have worked in many slums, and I know there is a positive impact for both sides when an outsider takes an interest in slum dwellers' lives and how they cope by connecting with them."
Talking about the amenities, guests will be given proper treatment with all new mattress, a flat-screen TV and an air-conditioner. But they are supposed to use the same toilet facility that is used by rest of the slum. "We would be very happy if they eat with us," Sansi added, "but we can also direct them to a nearby restaurant."
David Bijl created a page on Facebook where he uploaded photographs of the dirty Indian-styled toilets. It is to ensure the tourists about what are they getting in. Also, photographs of Ravi's family and happy kids were posted on the page.
After Bijl created the Facebook page, he received criticism from Indians and foreigners for creating a negative impression of India on a social platform. "This is certainly not a cultural heritage, which should be put on display," a person posted on their page. "There are a whole lot of westerners who still believe India is a country of snake charmers... Now, if you give them a slum stay, they will go back home thinking the whole of India is a slum."
But Bijl has stayed there for a night and he has ensured that none of the seasoned travellers will fall ill.
It is not just the foreigners who will experience a night outside of their comfort zones as even Ravi's family is willing to do the same. They have decided to host unmarried couples (only foreigners).
Currently, the plan is unverified by the government but to keep it by the law; proper guest register is maintained. Also, an online form will be filled by each foreigner who takes up this Slum Stay.
We hope this step taken by Ravi Sansi along with David Bijl will improve the mentality of people towards the slums.
That's all, readers.
I hope you liked the story. If you have an amazing story to share, do write to me at email@example.com.