No, I’m not talking about medical treatments here. I’m talking about the way foreign tourists or foreign nationals are treated in India. From what I have seen and read, its not very amusing. And yet, it continues!

I live in Jaipur now, and was strolling through the thoroughfares of the Walled City yesterday evening, where the city palace and Hawa Mahal are situated, when I saw something which nauseated the hell out of me! Had I or someone close to me been subjected to that kind of treatment, I would have beaten the heck out of the perpetrators!

Basically, it was this. A man and a woman, both foreigners, were walking down a pretty crowded road, when two boys, either in their late teens or early twenties, started ogling them and then filming them with their mobile camera. The woman put up her hand in front of her, to show her disapproval, but it just did not matter to the boys. They just kept filming!

My question now is that would these people go back with a positive impression of India, or with this negative impression! Our government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, euros and pounds to promote tourism, even millions, but with people like these on the streets, are these foreign tourists likely to take back a positive impression of this country?

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have a Google Alert that brings to me, among other things, all blogs and web entries made about Jaipur. Amongst these, I often find accounts of how these foreigners have been ’jumped upon’ by locals, either offering a ’cheap’ ride, or trying to sell something, or trying to beg. One account even told of a foreign national being ’groped’ by one of these people! I even wrote an article about these blogs! Read it here.

And from the local residents I have learnt about the lapkus. Apparently, every neighbourhood in the tourist areas of the city has this group of people who jump on tourists’ shoulders (figuratively) to get the latter to do what they (the locals) want. A lapku is one who jumps (lapak jaate hain). As soon as they spot a foreign tourist, they tend to jump on them, hawking their fare, looking for alms or whatever!

I have seen these tourists being dragged by their hands into a shop, unwillingness and horror etched on their faces! Such is the distrust that these foreign tourists develop from such actions that when you try to genuinely help them, they decline, thinking that you too will pile on something or the other on them!

With the advent of travel blogs, things can get and have gotten only worse for India! Almost every blog or post I read about Jaipur extols the virtues of the tourist attractions, and immediately expresses revulsions at the way foreigners are treated here!

Honestly, all this is new to me, so I cannot proffer a solution to this problem. Do you have any?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Partha Mukhopadhyay
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 15:13:09

    The solution is not simple and has to be multipronged.
    1. We as a country is a force to reckon with in the world today. We should be proud to be Indians and detest from looking at foreigners (especially the white skinned people) to be something or somebody from space. They are also normal citizens from other countries and we should treat them accordingly. I am sure this does not happen with non white skinned people. Our colonial past is to be blamed for that, but it is enough now, fellow Indians. It has been more than 60 years now!
    2. We ought to have self help groups in every locality. I am sure every locality has a RWA, the RWA should take on the additional responsibility of reprimanding such offenders. I am serious about that. Outcasting such youngsters in his own locality should teach them a lesson.
    3. In a country where talking about sex is still a taboo among the vast majority of people, the government should take concrete steps to introduce sex education in every curriculum, in every state secondary and higher secondary boards. I say this because I am sure that maximum number of such offences are committed with one single hidden agenda – sexual gratification in some form or other. We should learn to treat sex as sex, as a normal physiological process, as we do our normal daily chores.
    4. We the citizens of India should shun away the most obnoxious of habits namely – “Chalta Hai”, “Koi Baat Nahi”, “Jugaad” – mentality to name a few.
    5. We may be good at formal education in schools, colleges and universities, but what we are bad at is “informal education”, that is learnt outside the confines of the teaching institutions. There will be a handful of us who are regularly in the habit of wishing somebody outside the corporate culture. Isn’t it true? And these values are taught by elders.
    6. I believe that our leaders, our icons, our celebrities should be more proactive in their duties and responsibilities to the society at large. It is good to see them pleading to save the Indian Tiger,but a lot more is expected from them. They should believe in what they are preaching and then only it sounds natural and convincing to the masses. I find only person fulfilling his duty in this regard – Aamir Khan.
    7. Last but not the least, we should always think that I can be that spark which sets a blazing fire.


  2. Alok
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 18:03:26

    Good post, Arko… This is a very common problem. Fleecing is something that even Indian tourists face every step of the way. Indian hospitality is a myth, it is available only for visiting heads of the state. Common travellers suffer at the hands of service providers.
    There’s another thing you could have highlighted. At most tourist places, the discrimination is official. Foreigners are required to pay much higher entry charge than Indians at monuments, forts, and museums. Why should this be so? Are they given any special privileges against a higher entry charge?


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