For the past two years, Delhi Magic has been running "Delhi by Metro", an offbeat and fun tour of Old and New Delhi. The tour uses local transport and is a great way to see Delhi through the eyes of young students who are residents of Delhi.
The tour is a unique partnership between us and Manzil, a non-profit that works with young people from non-affluent families. Guides for the tour are students from Manzil.
The tour has become very popular, and for many visitors to India, it is one of their trip highlights.
Sandra Ghattas loves her solo Delhi by Metro tour.
Like all young women who visit India solo, Sandra was looking for a safe and interesting experience of Delhi. It was the first stop in her Golden Triangle tour. On her very first day, she met Nisha and Asit, who introduced her to the city, took her on a Metro ride, a green auto-rickshaw ride, and a cycle-rickhaw as well. They explored the chaotic and interesting bazaars of Old Delhi (Mughal Delhi) and also the impressive monuments of New Delhi (British Delhi).
Nisha and Asit are among the 10 students who we have trained so far, to become tour guides for the Delhi by Metro tour. Over the past 2 years, we have done over 100 such tours, not just for solo travellers, but also for travel groups made up of family/friends, researchers, teachers, non-profit foundations and so on. What makes me really happy is that the tours have run to high quality, and they have run profitably. Moneys from the tour have benefited not just the guides, but also Manzil as well as Delhi Magic. Tourists have gained an authentic introduction to "real" people in the city and their daily lives, instead of dealing with the usual tourism professionals. And, most important, they've had a load of fun!
My vision for this tour is simple:
- I would like the tour to provide a means of income for the guides, so that they can continue their education without financial difficulties.
- I would like the guides to learn about their own city's history, share it with tourists from different parts of world, and gain self-confidence and social skills in the process.
- If any of these guides want to make a career in tourism, I would like this tour to provide a sort of early training ground, a place where they can take some baby-steps towards financial independence.
- Ultimately, I want them to develop full-fledged careers of their own, in their own chosen fields, become fully independent, and fly away from the nest :) That will then make way for fresh batches of guides.
I am very lucky (and happy) that I am able to see this vision come true in such a short span. It is a tribute to the hard work and success of these students that two of them are leaving this year for study programs in the USA. Another fresh batch of students is now being trained to do the tour. Here are photos from my visit to Delhi last week, when I met some of them and gave them the first part of the training orientation:
Sitting in the Delhi Magic office: everyone has been handed their tour scripts
Prep work: Looking through maps and getting familiar with tour routes, reading handouts, registering names and addresses
My talented friend Shilpi will be doing further field-training sessions for these students, taking them through New Delhi and Old Delhi, and demonstrating how the tour is to be done. A compulsive walker, amateur photographer, foodie and tree hugger, Shilpi is a proud ‘Dilliwali’ and loves to take people on offbeat trails around the city. I can't think of anyone better than her to do this training!
Once Shilpi is done with her training, we will put the new guides on a 'buddy-system' where they tag along with the older guides, to see how tours are done. After some experience with it, we'll give them tours of their own to run. I expect that by Oct, this new batch will be ready to try tours on their own.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this new group shapes up.