Travel is a wonderful thing, allowing us to see marvellous archaeological sites, architecture and natural wonders, and to experience different cultures and meet interesting people. But it can also shock you to the core.
Some destinations really open your eyes to the world’s injustices. For me, India was one such place.
I’d never had a huge desire to go, but a few years ago it suddenly jumped up my bucket list. I think the Incredible!ndia tourism campaign had a lot to do with it — all those images of colourful saris and the Taj Mahal made it look so enticing. And it is.
I spent three weeks travelling throughout the country with World Expeditions, from cruising the backwaters of Kerala, in the country’s south, to seeing Hindu pilgrims bathing in the Ganges River in Varanasi. It was a truly ‘incredible’ experience.
In Mumbai, I toured the country’s largest slum. Made famous by the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi is home to more than one million people.
I arrived early and waited in the car with my driver for the tour to start. Children were playing in the gutters nearby. A young man walked up with a girl, who looked to be two or three years old. He watched as she pulled down her pants and did a poo beside the road. Then, to my complete dismay, he walked away and left her. I can only speculate, but I got the impression he was heading to work and would return later to collect her. She seemed unperturbed and simply went about her business playing on the ground.