We launched the Mumbai Local tour about 4 years ago - you know, the one that uses local trains, buses and black-and-yellow taxis to see the city? It's been a very successful partnership with The Akanksha Foundation. Akanksha helped us find students who were looking for additional income to put themselves through college, and also to support their families. We trained these students to work as guides for this tour.
Here's one of the early press shoot photos - from a training session, for an article that appeared in the Indian Express. Behind us is the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers. It was our first photo-shoot and neither I nor the kids could stop laughing at how fake it felt. I've got a copy of Sharda Dwivedi's "Fort Walks" in my hand, and I'm pointing like a school teacher! I want to grin every time I see it!
Later that day I clicked a more 'real' photo, of Priyanka with a tourist. The tour starts at the Gateway of India, and in this colour photo you can see how the area in front of the Gateway is all dug up. They were opening up the whole area then, making it easier for tourists to stand and photograph the Gateway. It is now very nice, they laid cobbled stones and it looks good.
This is the first batch of students who went through the training.
This is Freni, who shared her knowledge of the city with them, and became Freni "didi" in the process :)
Some of our initial experiments with the route, using buses and trains!
The kids did amazingly well. Thanks to the fun nature of the tour, and its genuine Mumbai flavour, before we knew it, we had more bookings than we expected. And of course, we then had more students training!
Here are some recent photos taken this year during the tour, with two Australian families:
Looks like such a fun tour, no? Try it sometime! A part of the tour proceeds goes to Akanksha Foundation, to support the excellent work they do in the education of children. The girls who work as guides for this tour have all benefited from Akanksha programs, and they are a credit to their community and to their parents. Through the tour I am glad we are able to provide them with some additional income. More important, I think the tour provides them with opportunities to interact with people from different countries, to gain confidence and skills, and to learn and be proud of their own city. Three of the girls now work in my office as well, so they have taken their first steps towards a career in tourism.
Here's another recent photo from an article in the Times of India - this time with a family from New York:
Because of our success in Mumbai, I thought I would do a similar tour in Delhi, and not surprisingly, that tour is doing well too! Head over to Delhi Magic and take a look! I hope these tours go from strength to strength, and that more and more students benefit from them.