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India Travel Stories

Further Reading – Six Books To Help You Understand Slums

Salman Rushdie once wrote that “to understand just one life you have to swallow the world“. In Dharavi there’s an estimated one million lives. In Sanjay Colony, there’s a not inconsiderable 50,000.

As we try to convey on our educational tours, these communities are incredibly complex. Whilst the word ‘slum’ evokes a negative view (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition runs to ‘an area of a city where poor people live and the buildings are in bad condition‘) the reality is not so cut and dry. Yes, the challenging conditions show a lack of fairness in our societies and a failure of government  but there are also positive aspects; a strong sense of community, rents which make a rural urban migration possible and the potential for residence to play a part in shaping and moulding their environment.

Slums do not conform to a simplistic Dickensian definition of dirt, squalor and crime; neither should we assuage our sense of guilt at all that we have by romanticising the lives being played out there. The reality is it’s far more nuanced. To that end, here’s a few books straight from the Reality bookshelf which might help shape your understanding of what is an incredibly complex topic.

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What The Dabbawallahs Of Mumbai Can Teach The World About Sustainable Business

Freshly cooked dalokra, rice and roti are packed safely into a metal tiffin when the doorbell rings. A white capped dabbawallah is anxiously waiting for the lunchbox but he is sure to flash a smile before he speeds away on his bicycle.  At the local train station, he adds six more lunch boxes to a wooden plank that is hoisted onto his colleague’s head. It weighs 65 kilograms (143 pounds). Fighting the remainder of rush hour commuter traffic, the second dabbawallah steps into the luggage compartment of a Mumbai local, sets his cargo on the ground with the help of two colleagues and chats idly as the train pulls out of the station.
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Five TED Talks We Love, And Why We Love Them

Since 1984 ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’ (more commonly known the world over as ‘TED’) have been sharing ‘ideas worth spreading’ relating to all things, from education to business, science to development. In the last 30 years, they’ve shared over 2,400 talks in more than 100 languages which have been viewed 500 million times.

These talks are a regular source of ideas, information and inspiration here in the Reality Group office – here are a few we love, and why we love them. (more…)

Ganesh & The Story Behind Maharashtra’s Favourite Festival

India is a very diverse country and every city has its own rich history and culture. A particularly striking aspect of this is the range of different festivals celebrated throughout the country.

One of the biggest festivals celebrated around this time of the year in Mumbai is “Ganesh Chaturti”. Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He is one of the most famous Hindu Gods and easily identified by his elephant head. He is known as the God of Wisdom and Intellect, but also as “Ek Dant”- one tooth – and “Vighnaharta”- vanquisher of obstacles. (more…)

What I Learned From Two Years in Dharavi: Reflections From Our Former Marketing Director, Nick

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of working in Dharavi: the heart of Mumbai, its center of small scale enterprise, and “one of the largest ‘slums’ in Asia”. Dharavi is an incredibly unique area that outsiders rarely get the opportunity to work in and learn from for such an extended period of time. It is an organically built neighborhood comprised of over 80 different communities that was born out of necessity and now houses up to one million people (who speak over 30 languages and follow six religions) and 15,000 small scale industries. (more…)

Life Lessons From An 8,000 Kilometre Train Journey Around India

Earlier this year our Operations Executive, Mayur Parmar, had the opportunity to join Jagriti Yatra, a 15-day, 8,000 kilometre journey around India. The trip brings 450 young Indians together on a train to learn about our country. The journey is punctured by stops to learn from local leaders who are building India through innovative enterprise.

Last year, staff members of Jagritri Yatra came on a tour of Dharavi and Mayur met them and learned about their program. They encouraged him to apply and he did just that. When Mayur arrived on the train earlier this year, he quickly realized that coming from Dharavi and working for a social business made him unique among the 450 yatris, the majority of whom were studying to become engineers. Mayur took it upon himself to teach everyone about the unique community he is from and the company he works for. By the end of the journey he was a minor celebrity on the train and was selected by the Jagriti Yatra staff to address the group on the final day.

What follows is the speech that Mayur delivered to the 450 Jagriti Yatra participants and staff. (more…)

[Interview] What Two Dharavi Youth Learned From An International Leadership Program In Rural India

Kaveri and Hasnain, two graduates from Reality Gives’ Youth Empowerment Program, recently joined youth from the French NGO Global Potential for a four day leadership course in our partner village, Chinchoti.

Global Potential is an 18 month leadership and entrepreneurship program for youth from underserved communities. A key aspect of their program is a 45 day service-learning project in a rural village. During the month and a half immersion, program participants learn from local youth and cultures, carry out internships, and support community projects in health, environment, education, and media.

This year, they came to India for the first time to explore potential partnerships and partner villages with our co-founder Krishna. They also took the opportunity to host an abbreviated version of their leadership course with their students, and invited Kaveri and Hasnain along too! (more…)

Dharavi, The Dalai Lama, And Striving For Abundance Without Attachment

 Asim, our Operations Manager in Mumbai, traveled to Dharamsala along with three Dharavi businessmen to sit with the Dalai Lama on a panel discussion about enterprise and poverty.


I was recently invited to Dharamsala along with three entrepreneurs from Dharavi to sit on a panel discussion organized by American Enterprise Institute. Abundance without Attachment was the theme of the program. They wanted to discuss about enterprise and poverty, and how to lift people up. There were around 50 people present in the room and they were interested in hearing our stories from Dharavi. (more…)

Diwali & What It Means To Us

Diwali is tomorrow! In this post, two of our guides, Jitu and Balaji, explain the history of Diwali, why it’s important, how they celebrate and how it is celebrated by Jains. To learn more join us for our Diwali Dharavi Tour and Celebration next year!

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Mumbai Rush Hour Transport Race (With Video Of Bicycle Ride)

It’s 6pm, you’re in Colaba and you need to go north, what do you do? Risk a traffic jam in a taxi? Get a free body massage in the train? Weave in and out of traffic with your motorbike? We decided to put six forms of transport to the test and figure out the answer once and for all.

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