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    by Rohin on 8th May, 2006 at 1:13 pm    

    Two British papers have run similar stories on consecutive days, both concerning the subject of a new brand of tourism; poorism. Whilst the two experiences are quite dissimilar, both subvert the traditional Western notion of a holiday in the developing world, where one can normally afford to live like a king.

    India has been pioneering trips to more rural communities for many years, I first read about Kerala’s attempts to popularise ‘model villages’ quite a while ago. Here, foreigners or indeed wealthy Indian urbanites, can experience what traditional village life consists of. Or at least a sanitised version. The Telegraph visits Kanadukathan, in Tamil Nadu. The reporter journeys there with his wife and the stay does sound like a quaint chance to see another side to India.

    Now the Observer reports on Delhi’s take on the phenomenon, where punters tour the city’s railway station slums and gawk at drug addicts and the homeless.

    Babloo, who thinks he is 10, has been living here for maybe three years. His hands are splashed white from the correction fluid that he’s breathing in through his clenched left fist, and he pulls a dirty bag filled with bottles with his other hand. His life is unrelentingly bleak and he recognises this. ‘I don’t know why people come and look at us,’ he says.

    This seemingly bizarre sightseeing trip has honourable intentions - the ticket money of £2.50 goes towards a local children’s charity. I toured Soweto, the famous Jo’burg township, a few years ago and whilst a truly amazing experience, the far pricier fee I paid went nowhere near the people I visited. In fact the article briefly mentions similar excursions, including Soweto, the Rio favelas, the Bronx and East Harlem, Belfast and Rotterdam.

      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Culture, Economics, India

    9 Comments below   |  

    1. Don — on 8th May, 2006 at 1:28 pm  

      My first reaction is that this is a very creepy thing to do, although I did take the Belfast murals tour a year or so ago.

      The ‘model villages’, like the tourist oriented hill tribe villages in Thailand, at least leave open the possibility that those being gawked at could exert some measure of control - and exploit the gawkers for everything they can get.

    2. leon — on 8th May, 2006 at 1:52 pm  

      Hmmm, have to say I find this somewhat disgusting. Instead of flying all that way to give £2.50 to a local charity why not stay at home and send them (the charity) the total cost of your holiday? It’d have a greater effect…

    3. Rohin — on 8th May, 2006 at 3:11 pm  

      Leon I think people basically are already on holiday there and this is a sort of day trip. It’s weird. I can’t quite make my mind up about whether this is good. The village initiatives are panchayat-run, whereas this is less regulated by the ones ‘on show’. And a rural village can be pretty, I understand the appeal of seeing the traditional butter churning and cow-herding whatnot. But Tippex-sniffers? I don’t get the appeal other than gasping at ‘how the other half live’.

    4. leon — on 8th May, 2006 at 5:17 pm  

      Right, I see. Still find this uncomfortable though. Doesn’t strike me as a humane way to give to charity…

    5. Don — on 8th May, 2006 at 6:40 pm  

      The people organising these might well have good intentions, and simply be using any available method to gain revenue, but for the tourists themselves, it’s hard not to think of Johnny Rotten’s ‘cheap holidays …’

      After all, one can donate to Amnesty without expecting to tour an Uzbek interrogation room.

    6. Rohin — on 8th May, 2006 at 6:48 pm  

      I suppose they are taking the lead from schemes such as those in Soweto and Cape Flats, as SAfrica is another country with a huge poor-rich divide and plenty of affluent tourists. Sure it’s a bit voyeuristic on the part of the tourists, but I can imagine that some English people (for example) on holiday and finding themselves with a free morning may choose to do this. In the article it does highlight some positive things that one can see, like a school.

      The organisers are trying to make a bit of cash and as long as tourists are going to have a slightly dark curiosity, it seems to make sense. But yes, I’m also uncomfortable about it.

    7. Zak — on 8th May, 2006 at 6:55 pm  

      People in the UK..I recommend visiting Burnley…swing around Pendle Hill if you want a change!

    8. Bruce Ryerson — on 8th May, 2006 at 11:59 pm  

      It is difficult for me to accept both the haves and the have nots, does something like this make it any easier?

    9. El Cid — on 9th May, 2006 at 10:27 pm  

      Greetings from Lisbon!
      Well I went on a safari holiday in Zambia last year with the family and I insisted we visit a local village and school for a bit of authentic poverty-stricken Zambia, just so my kids didnt get the wrong idea about sub-Saharan Africa. It was magical — the best part of our holiday (aprt from the leopards) — and I’m glad we did it. You may scoff but it put a bit of money in people’s pockets and spread the tourist dollar beyond a few hotels. Tourism is a legit alternative when all people have is subsistence farming. OK, so there’s a slight tinge of voyeursim to the example you describe, which is unfortunate, but the principal stands. All you mollycoddled buddhists of suburbia should get of your high horse (I jest, of course).

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