It is a tour with a difference - because it takes tourists out of the comfort zone of private cars and airconditioned buses. On the Mumbai Local tour, tourists get an inside view of Mumbai by going on our iconic red BEST buses, black-and-yellow taxis, and of course, our famous local trains. The tour starts at the Gateway of India, and covers all the "must-see" places in the city - but in a way that's guaranteed to show you the "real" Mumbai! To round it off, it includes tea and snacks at Swati Snacks, where tourists get an introduction to Mumbai's special brand of fast food.
The guides for this tour are special too. They are a group of teenagers, from Akanksha Foundation, who we trained for 3 months to do this tour. Akanksha helps children from disadvantaged families, several of them from small chawls and slums. I've been supporting Akanksha through donations, but I figured asking Akanksha kids to become guides on this tour would be a better than just offering financial help. Here's a tour in progress:
The two girls on the right are guides. They both come from poor families, but have completed school, and are now in college. I want these teenagers to show visitors the city as they see it everyday – home to both the rich and the poor, alive and vibrant, and constantly on the move. I'm hoping that seeing the city through the eyes of these young guides will give tourists an insight into the true spirit of Mumbai.
For the guides too, the tours are an opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world, to learn new things, and to see the world a little differently. There are five guides - four girls and one boy - the tours give them an opportunity not just to earn pocket money or supplement their family income, but also to learn how to handle a wide range of situations. They are growing increasingly confident with each tour, so I am personally very happy.
NDTV interviewed me as well, and I spouted some nonsense about the tour - I didn't fumble, thank God. They told me later I was "a natural". I should've dressed for the interview, of course, instead of showing up in my oldest T-shirt and cargo pants. I thought I'd play it cool, you see? So there I was, on national TV, faded Tshirt, streaked kajal and limp hair, and looking like a small sized blimp. Sigh. So much for playing it cool. I don't dare post a photo, but the video is here on the NDTV site.