Most people tend to avoid Delhi like the plague, which is understandable.  It’s hot, insanely hectic, crowded and an all-around difficult place to deal with. We, on the other hand, found ourselves transiting through Delhi a few times – once on arrival in India, once after doing our Northern India loop, once before heading to Agra, and once after Agra and before heading to Rajasthan. Yes, we’re suckers for punishment.

What we did well was to break up our time in Delhi into small, digestible (if you don’t count the bouts of Delhi Belly we seemed to pick up every time we passed through) chunks. Each visit was filled with just one or 2 activities, making it a much more pleasant time than if we’d spent a whole week or 2 here in one go.

 Sanjay Slum Tour

We weren’t sure what to expect from a tour of a slum, but this company (Reality Tours & Travel) got great reviews (not only that the tour is great, but that they offer a whole lot back to the slum community including ongoing education and life-skills programs), so we decided to bite the bullet and go along. We were not disappointed.

Slum Statistics

It is said that over 45% of Delhi’s 25 milllion inhabitants live in slums, one of which is the Sanjay Colony. Located in the Southern Industrial area of Delhi, the Sanjay Colony was founded in 1969 and is now home to an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people – all living in an area of just 25 Acres (0.04 square miles / 0.1 square km), with an average of 10 people per home. 

Monthly rent in the slum is between Rs.10,000 (USD $140) and Rs.15,000 (USD $200), and daily labour wages are around Rs. 160 (USD $2.20) for 8 hours of work. Looking at these numbers, one can gather just how difficult it must be to make ends meet, and why it is necessary to cram so many people into each room of each house. Remarkably, there is only a 10% unemployment rate in the slum – probably due to their ingenious industriousness. Also, it’s worth noting that children are not allowed to work in the slum.

Work in the slum

One of the major industries in the colony is to collect off-cuts from various clothing factories, then sort them by colour. Once the sorting is complete, the offcuts are sold back to other factories where they are used to create more clothes. Some of the smaller off-cuts are gathered and sold to factories to use as stuffing for pillows and the like. The ladies in the colonies spend their days sitting under plastic tarpaulins sorting through off-cuts. We were there in October and it was boiling hot – I can only imagine how unpleasant it would be in the peak of summer! 

Most of the slum is hooked up to sewage services, but only a fraction of the houses have running water. For those that don’t, the government sends giant water trucks with thousands of litres of water to the colony every day, and the inhabitants collect water for their households in huge plastic water barrels which they then roll back to their homes.

Despite the hardships these people endure every day of their lives, they appeared to be proud and happy with the lives they lead. They have a home to live in, are surrounded by a community that looks out for each other, and they all have access to clean water, food, work, education and medical services. Not once did any man, woman or child put their hand out and ask us for money during our time there – such a stark contrast to the streets of any other city or town in India. 

Since we were not allowed to take photos in the slum, the photos I have shared above are from the tour organisation (with their permission).

The Red Fort

The Red Fort is Delhi’s premium tourist destination – a sprawling complex of ancient fort buildings originally built by the Moghuls in the 17th century and was the seat of Mughal power from 1639 to 1857. Since then it was adapted by the British into a military barracks, and finally restored to it’s current state (part tourist attraction, part military barracks). Since we’d just returned from Agra, we were all “forted out” and didn’t spend too much time here.

Jama Masjid

Asia’s largest mosque, construction of the Jama Masjid commenced in 1656 and took 5,000 labourers 6 years to complete. It can hold an astounding 25,000 worshippers – I can only imagine how this must look on a Muslim holiday!

We were pressed for time so didn’t spend too long here, but certainly enjoyed the time we did spend in this impressive structure.

Gandhi Museum

The Gandhi Museum provides an in-depth look into the life of Mahatma Gandhi – the “father of modern India”. Here we browsed through thousands of relics from the life of this amazing man, and had we had the time and energy to read and look at everything, we would probably have needed a week. If you’re a history buff or a Gandhi fan, definitely visit this incredible museum, and give yourself a good few hours to soak it all in.

Greg

I’m Greg. I like to write about stuff, and I’m a web developer – seems logical that I should have a blog.

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