Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tourism Blues

“Adhiti devo bhava” the epigram in which lies the heritage of every Indian. However the experience of a group of college students from God’s own country during their visit to the neighbouring state raises a question and becomes a blackmark in a country where guests are considered equivalent to gods. This article is to bring to public notice a few grave matters that needs to be addressed. A pleasure trip to Karnataka; but more that the hi-fi ness of Bangalore and the colour of the Brindavans ,a few singular encounters with the police,the security guards at the Brindavan gardens and the many Adams everywhere comes to the mind.
It was a dream come true for many when they set out for a five day trip to Bangalore,Mysore and Ooty.First stop Bangalore, metropolitan and modern in every sense.They stopped at a petrol bunk when a plainclothes policeman(haughtily flaunting his ID)boarded the bus.He started asking questions directly to a girl student as to who they were and the purpose of the excursion.His motive was evident when he left,all smiles,once he was given a hundred rupee note.
The next incident was when they were walking back to their hotel that night,weary from shopping and loaded with bags when a policeman amused himself by calling them’beggars’.Throughout the shopping trip most girls had encounters with ‘gentlemen’ who couldn’t walk by them without knocking onto them or passing off colour comments.
Truly bizarre was the experience at the Brindavan Gardens..The dimly lit park was very crowded owing to the second saturday and Pongal holiday.As the girls walked ,with the boys of the group forming a circle around them for protection,catcalls and obscenities floated towards their ears. Then ,when one of the boys accidentally stepped into a fountain,a security guard without even a verbal warning, struck him with a metal lathi.
The tour conductor who demanded an explanation got his reply with a blow,dodging which he fell down.Two security guards ,grinning mischievously ,attacked him with their lathis. The rest of the boys rushed to his aid when a few more guards materialized and started swinging their lathis at them.The girls watched horrified and by the time the guards came to their senses most of the boys had red welts on different parts of their bodies.Next the guards threatened to file a case against the dazed students,for fighting with them.It was only after pleading with them that they were allowed to go.One of the boys received a whack on the knee even as they were leaving.
The excursion party was too rattled and frightened that they did not even dare to lodge a complaint. Contemplating the complicated legal procedures most of them consoled themselves that things couldnt have been worse. The language bar was another factor. It was heartening that none of the other tourist who had witnessed the incident came forward to intervene.
If this is how tourists are treated then I don’t see any future for places like the Brindavans. In a public place where an entry fee is exacted this should not be the staff’s mode of conduct.Lathi charging is something used against an aggressive mob after sufficient warnings.Then where did these security guards get the right to assault tourists or anyone, for that matter? If they are so duty conscious then how come the place still teems with eve teasers and antisocial elements? How can one approach the police when they are also out to exploit naive tourists? To be caught in a legal imbroglio in a strange land will be last thing anyone would want. I am sure this is not an isolated incident. If this is how tourists from the neighbouring state is treated then God help those from faraway places.Mine is an open appeal to anyone who can change this situation. I hope there will be a day soon when one can listen to the colourful bustle of shoppers rather than off colour comments, when girls can walk the busy streets without feeling insecure and when one can enjoy a beautiful evening in the Garden city without fearing a lathi charge.