Tourism is dead, Long live tourism
June 14, 2010 1 Comment
For long, we Indians have been priding ourselves to be the spiritual and cultural capital of the world. As the home to one of the oldest religions of the world and by virtue of being largely secular, India may be a tad right on the spirituality.
Regarding the cultural suzerainty, our claims are less authentic in my view because of the fact that India’s culture tends to be on the extremes – to extreme piety to rank stupidity.
The intent of this note is not to dwell upon India’s cultural capital or the lack of it but to take a real hard look at the “surround industry” that benefits from India’s spiritual and cultural positioning – the industry of tourism.
Fleecing, cheating, touts etc.. are very common experiences in a tour to India. It can happen to Indians themselves so the travails of foreign tourists must come as no surprise. But what was appalling to me, from a recent trip to Mysore, is the pathetic maintenance of supposed tourist spots.
There is a tell-tale scene from Raju Hirani’s Munna bhai, the scene where circuit (Arshad Warsi) is ordered to bring a “body” (cadaver for practical classes) by his boss Munna (Sunjay Dutt). Warsi looks around and finds a Japanese who is busy taking photographs at a washing ghat.
Circuit lures the Japanese by promising him to help take photographs of poor, suffering sick people. Matter of factly he asks the Jap whether he isn’t interested in photographing the Taj Mahal to which the Japanese responds that he only wants to see “poor india”.
The real tourist attraction of India is “poverty” damn the Hampis, Elloras, Ajantas and Mahabalipurams. Corpses floating on the Ganga, the slums of Mumbai, the stench of Chennai’s Cooum and the dirt of Kolkatta are really what we have to “attract” tourists.
We are thus fiercely protecting the idea of India most of the western hemisphere has, despite all our economic and military might.
India : The land of snake charmers, long moustaches and ideal for tiger poaching.
Back to my experience in Mysore, it was terrible to say the least.
The Mysore palace has been reduced to a “shoe stand” to say the least. The touts posing as “official tourist guides” were spinning yarns about history conveniently adding to what their limitation allowed them to know.
The floors of the palace were broken at many places and it must be certainly six months before it ever got dusted. The bulbs put up to illuminate the palace were broken in many places. Surprisingly all the bulbs were incandescent bulbs wasting electricity. I couldn’t see any “paan stains” at least in this trip, but shouldn’t be long before the Mysore palace goes down the way of the (in)famous charminar which is now known more for it’s paan stains rather than any mughal architecture.
If I had enough in Mysore palace, the “famous” Brindavan gardens were even more disastrous. The waters of Cauvery flowing through the sluices of the regal dam have been reduced to a flea infested brackish cesspool. The unkempt canals have resulted in growth of wild grass halting the free flow of water contaminating it beyond redemption.
The stench from the water was unbearable and adding insult to the injury was a huge jet right at the middle of the cesspool spewing water heavenwards in a pathetic attempt to represent a fountain.
Cesspool and a Fountain ?; whosever idea it was, just terrible.
Most of the “fountains” were nothing but “rusty pipes” spewing stanching water not fit enough even to be a sewer. The gawky fountains could be the “be-all-and-end-all” for a wonderstruck gaping Indian public, I was pondering as to what the place offers to the foreign visitor.
Even if I have never crossed the high-seas, certainly these “fountains” are much worse than the sewer treatment plants in the Americas and Europe.
Whom are we fooling in the garb of tourism ?
The real low point of the visit to the Brindavan gardens came in the form of the “musical fountain”. It is an absolute insult to intelligence to even remotely associate the fountain with music.
Sure there was music and the fountain did spew more brackish water illuminated by garish coloured light reflectors but what the heck, the many Ravichandran (for kannada fans) and T Rajendhar (for tamil fans) and all telugu movies have had better music fountains.
It was utter crap.
And to make matters even worse the “music fountain” was blaring a “dappankoothu” (local) kannada song which certainly wouldn’t appeal even to the canines of the foreign tourists.
Some sense at least in the choice of songs ?
It is such a shame that corruption has taken such a huge toll of the natural, scenic wonders of our country, if the Mysore experience is anything to go by.
The “Incredible India” slogan is such a sham except ofcourse we mean the total lack of value for money as the “incredible” proposition of our tourism.
The poor state of India’s tourism can be gauged from the fact that the booming middle class now prefers to go on Europe/US/Far East jaunts rather than visit places within the country.
Nepotism, Corruption and insensitiveness of the Indians has come together in a potent mix to kill tourism in India.
Very soon, tourism in India could be reduced to just visiting the clean bungalows of our babus who have left no stone unturned to keep their homes pristine and clean leaving India in a mountain of garbage.
Tourism is virtually dead in India.