Slum Tourism

Having produced one of their very first travel pieces, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the recent deal between Current TV and Yahoo. Good for them. I have to confess that I rarely watch Current on channel 102 here in NYC, since so many of the pieces are agonizingly hard to watch, especially if you’re like me and don’t really like hip-hop all that much. That said, there are many gems among the hours of programming they feature, and I’ve always hoped they’d do a deal with someone like Yahoo or Google so you could select and watch specific pieces that get rated or passed around on the Web. So here’s kudos to Current and hopes that they keep on gong strong.

And here’s to Current as well for doing a great little story on Slum Tourism. When I was in Bombay, India two years ago, I made a special trip as a journalist to the Dharavi slums on the outskirts of town. This was a soul-slapping experience. The rancid sprawl of this slum, Asia’s largest ,went on forever and ever, as if it was a rank, wrecked city all to itself. And amazingly, while I was there interviewing one of the city’s administrators about the state of the slum, I ran into several tourists, walking around and shooting photos of people who lived in the slum. I hadn’t thought much about it at the time, but what I saw was exactly what they talk about here: slum tourism.

Is this an awful sign of the growing divisions of wealth in the world or an unsurprising reflection of human nature … that is, there have always been forms of slum tourism around, where the rich leave the comfy confines of their lives to “see how the other half lives.” I tend to believe the latter, but I could be wrong.