What a difference crossing the tracks make. On one side, the chaotic and bustling Mumbai, filled with a mix of stores and street side sellers. As soon as you take the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks at Mahim Station, this is the view that greets you.
It's still chaotic and filled with activity, but there's a real sense of poverty here. Buildings are in disrepair, and sanitation has dropped off a cliff in comparison to the other side of the tracks. The struggle to climb out of poverty looks 100x more challenging here than elsewhere.
Dharavi slum is so big, it has its own informal economy. Everything from some scale local barbershops and snack stalls to textiles and the significant recycling industry. The total informal economy is pegged at between US $500 million to US $1 billion per year. While this number sounds quite large, on a per capita basis, it's more like US $500 to US $2,000 per year.
How To Visit:
There's several tour companies offering walking tours of Dharavi that you can find on TripAdvisor. Some have strict no-photography policies. If you're ok with that, then no problem. If you're really intent on taking photos though, you may need to look around a bit more depending on what it is you're trying to accomplish.
Tour I Used:
Slumgods Tours & Travel (http://www.slumgods.in/)
My guide was a Dharavi resident and up and coming rapper. Overall good experience and I was able to get a few good photos in.
Taking photos of people in Dharavi can be a bit controversial. Some see it as exploitation of the poor just for a stereotypical photo, or as disrespectful. Be mindful of that. Additionally, I found using a smaller camera, like the Sony RX1RmII that I used throughout Dharavi, was really helpful. Full-frame optics with a diminutive size that is less intimidating. People see me taking photos with it and they think I'm more so just a tourist than a pro-photographer looking to make money off taking someone's photo.