From the Editor – Make India Shine

Dear Ghumakkars,

Ghumakkar family is growing constantly and in the past one month, we have had as many as 10 new members write for us:

Anup Krishnan
Chaitanya Shangloo
Jay Kakarla
Kapil Aggarwal
Manoj Choudhary
Ravi Kalra
Ritesh Gupta
Shailza Dasgupta
Sunil Ranjan
Virag Sharma

Welcome to Ghumakkar everyone. We are really pleased to have you with us. Hope you have had a nice time so far and are feeling at home here.

There are times when our faith needs to be reaffirmed for our optimism to kick in. And there are times when we have to channel our emotions into positive energy to get over setbacks. All of us want India to shine. And for that to happen, all of us need to believe in it. Everyone can make a difference.

India can Shine


Fuelled by this pride, I recently got into a minor argument with an influential international traveller over India. While what the traveller said was unfair, we have to admit that India can be overwhelming for a foreign tourist. The sheer number of people, differences in customs across various parts of India, and the level of spices in our food can pose many challenges for them. While these add to the character of the country, I couldn’t help but think of some steps that India can take to make tourists (foreign or local) feel more comfortable and safe. So here are some things that I think will make India shine, tourism-wise at least:


Tourist Information Centres
Manned by well-informed people who genuinely want to help tourists find their way around the place. Generally people who love a place suit this kind of job the best for the reason that they are very conscious of projecting a positive image of the place. Indifferent babus will not do. And also, these centres should be well-equipped with pamphlets containing phone numbers and addresses of reliable taxi providers, places to visit, places to eat, hotels and inns, and maps to be handed out free of charge. We need a generous sprinkling of these centres across cities and villages. These information centres can earn some money too by selling local merchandise, fridge magnets, postcards etc. So it will overall be a win-win situation for everyone.

Home Food Joints
A lot like the concept of Bed and Breakfasts, Local households can register to provide true home-cooked food for tourists. The registered households should be required to go through a thorough inspection for quality, taste, and cleanliness regularly in order to maintain their licenses. These households can then provide Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner to the tourists at reasonable prices. And these households should not serve Daal Makhani, Shahi Paneer, and Butter Chicken. Instead they should concentrate on the dishes that don’t regularly appear on restaurant menus, such as Arhar Daal with plain rice, aaloo-mattar, curd-rice, Poha. In short, the stuff that we eat regularly at home. This provides a reliable source of income for households and food that is easy on stomach yet full of local touch for tourists.

Local Friend Service
Many tourists fear being duped in foreign lands. They feel more comfortable if they have a local friend to guide them. However, this isn’t always possible. A service that provides the tourists with someone they can trust for helping them make day-to-day decisions such as what to wear, how much to pay, where to eat etc. will be very beneficial. Of course the ‘Local Friend’ should go through rigorous assessments and background checks before being employed.

Efficient Emergency Response Services
This is an area where we really need to catch up. Unfortunately police does not arrive late only in the climax of Bollywood movies. We need to have ER services that are prompt in responding to emergencies and by prompt, I don’t mean within 24 hours. They should have a protocol of reaching the person in distress within 10 minutes. Something on the lines of Britain’s 911 service will help a lot. And this service should include medical help, police services, and fire-brigades. The service should be available to everyone in the country. The presence of such a service will instill a lot of confidence in tourists.

Clean and Comfortable Loos
Need I say more? These should be everywhere. And there shouldn’t be a charge for using these. More people should be employed to keep these clean. The loos should also be secured to prevent vandalism and crime. They should also be made accessible to people with disabilities.

There is a lot more that we can do to make India a more attractive and safe travel destination. And if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. All this might sound like an awful lot of investment but just imagine the returns. An increase in travel and tourism will increase cash flow into the country. The overall image of our nation will improve. And perhaps people will think twice before talking rubbish about India.

Till the next time…

16 Comments

  • Nandan says:

    Well said Editor.

    May be we need ‘Ghumakkar Kiosks’, a sort of mini-shop providing travel information sourced via this platform + the local yellow-pages + local news (roads, access).

    If we do put one, how would this setup sustain financially. It has to generate enough funds to pay for bills at least.

  • Vibha says:

    Hi Nandan,

    Interesting thought. We cannot charge for information or directional help. But if we have a small bookstall on the side that sells books about local history of a place, cuisine, and sites of interest and also sells good deals with some reliable and respected hotels in the vicinity, we may be able to support it. We may also need grants from local Tourism department for making their work easier for them.

    Will this work?

    -Vibha

    • Nandan says:

      Books wont work. May be a eatery. (local food + intl food). Ghumakkar Travel Cafe. I have been brooding for a long time :-)

      • Vibha says:

        A Ghumakkar Travel Cafe sums it up. Like Starbucks or Barista who also sell their merchandise along with coffee and food. But the major source of earning is food.

        And how would it be different from the regular cafe? What would make it a ‘Travel’ cafe?

        • Nandan says:

          I am not sure whether you had a chance to hit into them but off late, you see a lot of cafes (mostly prevalent in Rishikesh (Freedom Cafe), McLeod (Shiva and German), Kasol (Bhoj)) where they shell out intl stuff and mostly done by intl chefs who are here on sort of travel sabbatical.

          These are not expensive and have a very relaxed air unlike the more traditional masala-dosa/butter-chicken/chowmein ones.

  • jaykakarla says:

    Well researched article ! Congrats, Vibha! I liked the thought about providing facilities for the physically challenged . This will help them a lot to get into the mainstream of society.
    Regards Jay

    • Vibha says:

      Thanks Mr. Kakarla,

      I think we need to do a lot to make sure that the physically challenged are able to live and independent life in our country. As of now, there’s absolutely no support for wheelchairs, no provisions of ramps and such things. We have a long way to go in this regard.

      I am glad you liked the article.

      Cheers,
      Vibha

  • Pranjal says:

    A superbly organized and presented article!
    Truly agree that we need a Herculean effort to revamp the facilities provided for the tourists. Tourism sector has increased by 9% since last year, about 10 million international tourists visit India every year which is far higher than most of the countries on the globe! There is a dire need to revamp the facilities and provide at least a clean, friendly and beautiful memory for the tourists – the same reason why people love visiting Europe !
    Simple things like keeping our locality clean can make a huge difference.

    How about creating a Facebook group for Ghumakkar, having a consolidated information of places in India, probably a free marketing tool?

  • Vibha says:

    Hi Pranjal,

    Thanks for visiting Ghumakkar. A lot of tourists visit India and leave with wonderful memories but a lot of them unfortunately go through some harrowing experiences. Simple tweaking here and there will go a long way in creating a safe and clean India for locals and for tourists.

    We have a facebook page of Ghumakkar. Please take a look and Like if you wish. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/ghumakkar.

    And please keep visiting. We have stories from most parts of India here. Do go through some and comment.

    Cheers,
    Vibha

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Vibha,

    a thoughtful article indeed from the perspective of a traveller in India. Given some harrowing experiences we ourselves come across while traversing in our country, one can imagine the travails of international visitors.

    It would be a great idea to initiate some measures (howsoever small) – to help visitors/travellers create a good memory about their visit.

    @ Nandan,

    Any physical venture (viz kiosks/ food joints etc) would need very dedicated forces.

    Perhaps you could also consider some web-based initiatives (something like tripadvisor, which does it on a very large scale and thus sometimes tends to be ill-focussed on certain areas)), with regular and focussed local inputs/updates on various relevant issues, which can be accessed by any traveller?

    Homestays is another good approach which can provide a complete experienc to visitors. In fact I had a good experience of such a homestay in Munsiyari, about which I describe in next article. Now, such facilities may be available here, but if they a linked through a common and visible platform, it will certainly help.

    Good wishes,

    Auro.

  • Vibha says:

    Dear Auro,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    There is another “Crash on the couch” program that runs in Europe. Through this one can find households at a certain place that are ready to lend their couches to travellers looking for inexpensive stay options. Some provide this service free of charge just to meet new people. It is an interesting concept but I think we are miles away from it in terms of providing a service without earning any money out of it.

    Do tell us about the homestay experience. I agree that such facilities exist and there should be a platform through which travellers can search for them.

    Cheers,
    Vibha

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi Vibha,

      real prompt response.

      Yes, thats couchsurfing.com (if i am not wrong). Its a purely volunteer and I must say, majestically ambitious affair. But that, I feel has its limitations and may not inspire confidence among newcomers.

      My point was simpler – basically collate relevant information (say about Delhi) relevant to a tourist and make it available on a common platform. Source of information may be web-based as well as real ground info sourced from Ghumakkar network. This info could include details on already existing services viz. Homestyas, local shopping/eating joints, tourist circuit with recommended price etc.

      Now it comes to mind, about travel cafe described by Nandan above – isn’t there a cafe/tea house in Green Park area, where they don’t have a rate list but one has to pay as per his desire. And they have collection / data of comments/view/remarks from tourists visiting the place, to be accessed by others.

      I read about it somewhere pretty recently.

      Thanks.

      • Vibha says:

        Yes, such a platform will be very useful. A lot of information is already there on the Internet. However, it is so scattered that it takes forever to find.

        I tried searching for the coffee/tea room that you mentioned above. However, I couldn’t find it omn the Internet. Share a link if you can find it. I’ll be interesting to know about the place.

  • Nandan says:

    Kunzum. Run by Ajay.

    Haven’t been there. There is a travel blog site as well with the same name. Pretty impressive.

  • Biswajit Ganguly says:

    Hi Vibha,
    Compliments on your article, I am writing for the first time although I have been travelling quite frequently all across the country. Love the humbleness, honesty and innocence of our village folks. It is true “India lives in its Villages”. Unfortunately the so called tourist spots all across the country is full of dubious people, not very friendly, not honest at all, only after making money.I have come across lot of european travellers those who have been duped and cheated by the local so called tourist advisors. Its very unfortunate and disgusting. I do have great testimonials too, once came across an Isreali journalist couple at Kalpa (Kinnaur Distt of H.P) they have been coming to himachal quite frequently and the description they provided was simply awesome. They quoted few names of local spots which they found better then Switzerland for one simple reason “every thing was so Virgin and pious” . I am very happy to go through the suggestions you have made to improve the basic infrastructure of our tourism business, If we are able to restore confidance even in indian tourist because I am sure lot of people don’t go for outing just because of insecurity feeling and ignorance about the places of interest, this might become one of the biggest industry in our country.

  • Vibha says:

    Thanks Biswajit.

    I agree with your views. There’s a lot of potential in our country. But a lot of it is not being put to good use because many of us put our interest before in interest of our country. We have to realize that if the country progresses and is looked at with respect in the world, our position automatically improves.

    -Vibha

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