They do not want to see Mukesh Ambani's mansion or a Nano car in action. They are at best amused when they see the limited edition sedans vying for space with lazing cows in the street. The 'difference' is what appeals. And they'd take home a picture of themselves with the cow/camel or whatever animal they espy, not with the car or the rich.
They'll sit in a boat that offers ensuite crapping facilities and even sing praises about how their droppings make it into the backwaters. So, it is understandable that India is upset that we will lose out on phirang manure.
Five countries - the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - have issued advisories against travel to India during the festival season. The reason: caution about the terror threat.The West loves this terror threat as much as it loves its Big Macs. And they love Indian festivals - they visit during these because they get to take in the culture, place flowers over mausoleums of dead queens, watch naked sadhus, throw colour, light firecrackers. This is Halloween many times over. Now, terrorism is quite akin to that. A mask that hides something; they don't know what, so if their mai-baap (the government) tells them it wants to save them, they listen.
This latest piece of protectionism has made India's tourism minister, Subodh Kant Sahay, angry:
I understand his pain, but the manner in which he has mentioned Jammu and Kashmir just shows that there is only kind of terrorism even India wants to hold as an example. There is insurgency/disturbance in many other parts, but who wants to go to Dantewada/Jaitapur/Telengana? And tourists do not visit the Delhi High Court.
“I have taken this up with the external affairs ministry and asked it to persuade these countries to withdraw the advisories immediately. This is nothing but scare-mongering. Leave aside other parts of India, 100% booking is being reported from J&K. If this isn’t a sign of normalcy, what is?”
Has the government ever assured Indian tourists that places are safe? Most depend on travel agents for advice; these guys do a recce and are more responsible than the tourism departments.
However, there are foreign tourists who do take risks. For some, the edginess is as exciting as bungee jumping. Then, there are those who, besides seeking spiritualism, manage to 'contribute' by helping those who suffer. "We know how it feels," they seem to suggest, completely losing out on the irony.
Then, there is the low season factor, which is great value for money. They are the smart ones that calculate how many foreigners can be taken hostage and figure out the chances are one in a million or way less. Besides, it is not all great back home. Instead of occupying Wall Street, they can just hop into a low cost airline and bum it in India, where they are treated like gods. Really. We have a dictum, also in the scriptures: Atithi devo bhava (The guest is god) So, Aamir Khan endorses our tourism board by telling some poor cabbies not to mess with the foreign tourists. they are our guests/gods.
Why would the guy who drives a black cab in London or sits at the cash counter at Walmarts not rake it?
Besides, the advisory is probably to save the countries from making sure that the Indian economy does not look as chippy as it does for those who are indeed going through a low phase. I won't be surprised if they try and sell some sort of patriotism with this terror threat and also keep the money where it belongs. At home.
But India need not worry too much. There are still those who like the elephant in the room, so to speak.
Precious memory of the Puram festival in Thrissur, Kerala. Dusty, hot and sunny. Foreign woman in transparent pyjamas intently watching the backs of elephants and finally going down on her knees to capture a fart. Like any threat, it was invisible.
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Just thought I'd link this other piece I wrote to give a different perspective: Can Indian Men Handle Foreign Women? Some interesting comments there...
Also some personal vignettes from an older piece: These Boots Are Gonna Walk All Over You