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My name is Balaji and I am 27 years old. I live in Dharavi and have worked as a tour guide at Reality Tours and Travel for over 5 years now.  As a local from the slum, I have a lot to say about my neighbourhood –  the way it has changed with time and the changes that have happened to me in this time too by learning new skills in my job.  

I remember my childhood just like any other kid, having so much fun and having no idea about the future. As I grew up close to the railway track, me and my friends used to have much open space to play which wasn’t the case in other parts of the slum. I used to go to school in the morning until the afternoon and then for the rest of the day I had free time.  Sometimes I had work to do with parents and sometimes I used to play with friends either flying kites, spinning tops, playing cricket, hide and seek, marbles and many more games. All this went on for about 10 years and after all this nice memorable time it became very important and for me to find some work for supporting my family and for myself.

I got my first job as a salesperson to sell a targeted number of non-electric water filters in the slum and this was my first time meeting people. Eventually, I got to learn a lot more and got a different idea about people’s behaviours and purchasing power. With time  I also developed my skill to sell a product to any kind of person and along with that, I learnt two important things: one was how to sell a product and the other was that I was drinking unclean water! After this experience,  I did so many different types of work at various places. I worked as pizza delivery boy, and at that time I enjoyed riding the motorbike around the city, but I was not really happy with my stressful long days. But it was also important for me to help my parents who were struggling to make some living in their small flower business.

I then finally came to Reality Tours and Travel. This was my first skilled work, where I got to learn a lot and it shaped me into the man I am today. My English has improved a lot, I enjoy meeting new people from different parts of the world every day, I learn so much about my culture and also about cultures from different places around the world. I don’t get bored any day and there is always the opportunity to learn more here.

Now I have my own small family. I live with my mother, my wife, my son Paari and my daughter Padmaa.  We stay in a small house in slum Dharavi and I love my family and my kids a lot. My daughter is my dear little star. Her name means  “beautiful lotus” and she is also my 26th birthday gift: she was born exactly  2 days after my birthday!

My dream has just come true a few days ago when I got a government job in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation of Mumbai (BMC). I will work in the waste management department and I will join forces to keep Mumbai city clean.

My next wish is to have a small business to occupy my free time and also occasionally do tours for Reality Tours and Travel so I can keep showing my community, city and nation to the rest of the world.