Don’t Disturb The Tourist, Or Tourist Guide

October 30, 2017 Asia , India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Christopher John photo

 

By

Ananya S Guha

 

If you are looking for history, don’t look at the Taj Mahal. If you are looking for fun and revelry look at the chain of hotels having its first name. See how the name Taj has seen history, our world of hotels and even advertisements. So in a day dismantle from your imagination. It is a graveyard of stoic silence witness to five centuries. What is history and how is it related to tourism?

A few years back, visiting that beautiful part of our country Rajasthan, I walked into a fort, across it as well. The tourist guide explained how after the shooting of a Satyajit Ray film, the place had become an important and popular tourist destination. Ray, he said brought livelihood to many. An innocent assertion, but also an intrepid one. Livelihoods in this impoverished country are important, and when tourism merges with it it becomes daily earning, an earning which our learned tomes would call ”the unorganized sector” but meaningful and organized to so many of India’s hapless people.

Perhaps the word poor, in this context is a holy euphemism. What daily earnings mean to the common man, struck me in almost a manner which left me sad and bewildered. Satyajit Ray I was sure was not thinking of filling stomachs, but he did this almost unwittingly. The connection between art, tourism, architectural wonders, and aesthetics came spinning into my mind. What is the exactness of this reality?

But the question is, what has struck so many, that a tourist sight, I would not dare call it a historical site or sight, has disturbed the peace, the very equilibrium of some people? Four to five hundred years ago is a long, long time; how does such anger go back to the past? Are memories such an exciting excavation, digging the process with viciousness, acerbic hatred or anger? This is not our culture, it is claimed, in rotund fashion. Yet just after such epiphanies one of the votaries of this onslaught against the past, said that this monument was built by the sweat, blood and toil of our people. It was a huge relief, like almost taking off your seat belts after a horrendous flight.

Yes, the flight to the past, distant and not too distant has made us jaundiced in world views. It has made us look at the world of tourism with the agility of a sniper, aimed at demolishing myths about facts. But the wary will say, so many others are created. Or are we trying to exorcise devilish spirits which have loomed large in our history, or historical perspectives? Culture and history are aligned as one. Very true, history is culture. But the rubbish of infidels is not.

However having pilloried the media with such distorted and buttressed points of view, one of the protagonists of this drama, actually visits the site (sorry sight) and our loquacious media stolidly claims that he is the first Chief Minister to do so. The monument is now an effulgent light of history. And he goes on clean its precincts, a symbolic gesture of tainted love.

I remember reading in text books as a child that this exotic building was a monument of love, indeed that of a monumental love. But what happened here in that very city made history. Two foreign tourists were attacked, even as the pious Chief Minister spread the word of gelatinous cleanliness.

History I thought is witness to certain realities. The realities of worshiping it, acknowledging it and paying a heavy price for it. My vision of the past architectural beauties of this country, their grandiosity have been shattered by this bellicosity against marauders, invaders, infidels, call them what you want.

But don’t disturb the tourist or the tourist guide. The former has a wander lust, the latter a lust for food. Restore this balance in history and its ecology, its  constant shunting forth between past and present. Don’t down these shutters. But who will bell the cat? Prognostications into the future can also be incendiary, let us not look into it, but hope that the benighted present sees a little more of light. I go back to restoration of art, architecture and tourism. Not mauling innocents. That is certainly not culture.

 

 

 

 

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha was born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.

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