03/10/2013 10:43 BST | Updated 03/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Bollywood Star to Dharavi Slum: Things to Do in Mumbai

Walking around the touristy area of Colaba seemed like luxury compared to the rest of India. It was not until we left Colaba when we realized what life in Mumbai was really like.

From an eclectic range of restaurants and bars to starring in a Bollywood movie, Mumbai has plenty on offer for all tourists.

Dharavi Slum

Embarking at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the main station in Mumbai, it was evident already that this cosmopolitan capital was far more advanced than the rest of India.

Walking around the touristy area of Colaba seemed like luxury compared to the rest of India. It was not until we left Colaba when we realized what life in Mumbai was really like.

We decided to visit Dharavi, the world's largest slum and home to one million people in Mumbai, despite being pre-warned that it was a rather un-easy experience and an unwelcome one at that. On arriving at the somewhat dilapidated train station William decided to spend an hour in the highly unhygienic toilets whilst I spent an hour avoiding eye contact with the millions of passers-by fixated with my white face, along with listening to a hypnotic lady slumped on the dusty floor slurring out her lugubrious incantations. William inevitably had to pay the mysterious lady on his unexpected return and scowled as he mumbled "there wasn't even any toilet roll".

Walking over the bridge into Dharavi we crossed paths with thousands of men in cheap suits commuting to work. We crossed one more main road and then we officially entered. It felt like we had just entered an interminable sewer, a maze of shacks and corrugated iron forming a labyrinth of paths equally saturated with dirty water, cows, dogs and excrement. As we meandered through crap we were careful not to delve too far into this magical iron forest so as not to get lost and irrevocably live the rest of our lives in a slum.

We made the right choice by leaving our cameras in the hostel and not disrespecting the inhabitants of Dharavi, however I feel like we disrespected them enough just by visiting. I now feel ashamed that I took a tour to ultimately integrate myself in poverty for a couple of hours whilst being completely incapable of providing any help or charitable cause. The crazy thing was that the kids looked far happier, running around in dirty clothes, splashing through dirty puddles all after one cricket ball while in England a kid of the same age is probably crying because he has to wait a week to open his new iPhone. We knew we were unwelcome in Dharava and left feeling completely bewildered and slightly shocked by this vast, deep, intricate poverty-stricken slum. Above all that I was shocked by my ignorance and stance on life.


Arriving back in Colaba we were greeted on Colaba Causeway by a young man who looked like he aspired to be either a gangster or a rapper. After clarifying matters through his use of freestyle rap discourse we were soon approached, in a slightly more mature medium of standard speech, with the proposal of featuring in an upcoming Bollywood movie, with the addition of getting paid. We pretended to deliberate before excitingly agreeing to become film stars.

I now knew what it felt like to go from rags to riches overnight. Ab Tak Chappan 2 is my debut feature film and it looks truly awful. Gangster man decided to dress me up in baggy jeans and a massive black skull and crossbones t-shirt while the other tourists looked slightly more respectable. After a lot of waiting around and the odd contrived walk alongside the action my film days were over. I found being an extra exceedingly easy; it was essentially real life, me an extra human-being in a room full of other humans. After the day's work I felt ready to advance to real acting. It was a very fun day and we got to meet lots of other excited travellers revelling in their new found stardom. We were paid a career high six pounds and were told we weren't welcome to the premiere.


Khyber - Incredible Pujabi and other Northern-Indian food. Great for meat-lovers.

Indigo - Mumbai's finest restaurant. European cuisine, but at their great prices it is a must visit.

Trishna - Divine seafood option. We went twice we liked this restaurant so much.


Bluefrog - Mumbai's newest and most exciting music venue. When we went there was a horrible heavy metal band that finished early and was taken over by some hard techno. A great layout, fantastic sound system, but quite pricey.

Leopold's Café - Mumbai's quintessential tourist/ex-pat bar. You will inevitably end up here drinking with other tourists.

Toto's Garage - Less touristy, cheap drinks and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, Toto's is the perfect bar to go to before hitting a random club with the locals.