Prized for its ideological and welcoming note of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, India’s billion dollars-tourism industry often projects itself as one of hospitality, fun and frolic. Bestowed with exotic and rare beauty of nature and various cultural food delights, India could well have commanded all the limelight for being the best tourist destination.
However, none other than than India’s own citizens played termites and ruined the ambience required for this industry to flourish. Consequently, studies by Forbes Magazine continually rate India amongst the least-friendly countries for foreign visitors and expats.
Remember the harassment of Matthew Gordon, a 21-year-old Melbournian in Bengaluru? Mr. Matthew had a tattoo of the goddess Yellamma on his shin. Though not illegal, it offended the religion extremists who harassed not only this Aussie man but his girlfriend as well. Allegedly, they were made to stay in the police station for three hours without having committed any offence. No matter what religious sentiments have been hurt, incarcerating an innocent dictates utter nonsense. Being unaware of the culture and tradition of the country, it was the responsibility of the locals to appraise him of this unintended offence and suggest to hide or get rid of it. Far from sensible, the response of the locals was exaggerated and blinded with intolerance. What picture of India’s religious beliefs could this incidence have presented to this man? Studies prove downfall of international tourist in the last few years.
The already-tarnished image that the social evils like rapes, burglary and racism have accumulated for India gets bleaker with such instances. For long, the West disregarded India calling it the mysterious subcontinent of snake-charmers and magicians. Now when Indian technocrats and economists outshine the world, the reason changes but the disregard does not. Umpteen instances of rapes glued with inaction have dragged the nation to become the most unsafe choice for female tourists. Recorded are the cases of one Swiss woman being gang-raped and other British teenager being murdered in Goa. Many others go unregistered. “U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India,” says a note from the U.S. Department of State. This is what the world perceives us. Indian men have become synonymous to rapists. What worse could we be projected as?
Leave aside heinous crimes and cases of harassment, even regular acts of obsessive Indians stain the country’s name. Obsessed with fairer skin as we remain, young boys can often be seen begging for a photograph with tourists from US, UK etc. The case bears stark contrast for tourists from African countries. They are treated inferiors and disrespected. Where do all the morals and ethics vanish in seconds? Is God also subject to segregation on pedestals of colour and creed?
Etiquettes, well-decorated ornaments of our moral science books could actually never adorn our daily lives. Answering Barkha Dutt, journalist, NDTV 24*7 in Jaipur Lit Fest last year; Oprah Winfrey, renowned journalist and TV host mockingly said that she finds Indian traffic amazing. “What is it? A video game? So chaotic!” Disregard for rules runs in sync with our blood. If the government says don’t litter, chances are more people will pollute that day. This is the India we portray.
Given that India does little to respect its own indigenous groups like the northeast Indians, tribals and women; the contempt against the foreign flesh comes as no surprise to me. What is distressing though is the image of India these tourists carry back home and work as negative marketers. This is truly a backlog for the development for the tourism industry and must be dealt with at a priority note.