Guide training program – week 3

Finally half of the training is completed. Now three weeks of classroom teaching and one week of orientation tour are left and after that I will have to do my field work. I am so excited for my field work. I talked with the other participants of the program about my field work on LGBT tourism and all of them said that maybe the institute will not approve my subject. It’s disturbing but I will have to do something. I am trying to get some basic information about LGBT tourism so that I can talk with my professor and try to convince him to approve my subject.

In the case that they don’t allow me to work on LGBT tourism, I will go for either eco or rural tourism. I don’t want to do my field work on those traditional Indian tourism subjects like heritage or culture. I want to learn about heritage and culture as well and I will have to learn about it; I will have to mention the heritage and culture of Benares in my research even if I am permitted to do my research on LGBT tourism, but I would love to be specialized in LGBT tourism. Nobody has ever done it in India before and nobody else is going to do it in the present batch so it will be very good for me if they approve my subject.

If my subject is not approved, then I would like to do my field work in Mirzapur district about eco-tourism becuase Mirzapur district is only 75 kms from Benares and is full of beautiful nature. The professors taught us about caves, cave temples and rock painting of Mirzapur which is very interesting to me. Mirzapur is not a touristic place because government never promoted Mirzapur as a tourist destination but I would like to do it because there are lots of opportunities there. Mirzapur has a lot of waterfalls, dams, rivers, lakes, hills… Maybe I can start trekking and camping tours in Mirzapur.

Even if my LGBT subject is approved, I would still like to promote and work in Mirzapur. Mirzapur is basically rural area so I can promote Mirzapur as a rural tourism site as well. I am so excited for this project. This week we had very interesting lectures. One of our guest lectures was Mr. Pandya who won the best tour guide award for the year 2008. He works in Agra. He was telling that he is the highest paid tour guide of India. When a tour guide is giving tour to some tourist, the client stays in a fancy hotel and the tour guide stays in a budget class hotel. But Mr. Pandya has his own rules and he stays in the same five start hotels where his clients stay.

He was telling that because of his own rules and high charges he doesn’t get much work. He hardly does five or six assignments in a year. He charges $100 per day which doesn’t seem too much, but I don’t know why he was describing this amount as too much. Sometimes I make that much money by working with students as their translator. He had amazing knowledge of the golden triangle. He was advising us about improving our accent. He said that Indians have their own English but since we work with tourists and we get paid for it, we should try to learn their English.

This week I was taught about a word called ” Chabbi” which I had never heard before. It is a tourist sector Hindi word which means commission. We had a Muslim professor who was an expert on tourism in Jammu & Kashmir and he said that he did not want to take commission by the shop keepers by making his clients shop at their shops in the beginning of his career because Islam did not allow commission but now he also enjoys it. He said that this is what the system is and this system is popular all over the world. He said that tour guides all over the world are doing same thing.

In a few countries they call it profit sharing which sounds better, and specially for Muslims it is good word. He said that if he doesn’t bring the clients to the travel agency stores, he will be kicked out of the job. We had few very interesting lectures about India tourism offices working in India and abroad, Islam, female foreign tourists in India, condition of women in medieval Indian history, eco tourism, water tourism, adventure tourism, architectural heritage of India, Kamasutra, Khajuraho sculptures…

I asked the professor who was giving lecture about Kamasutra if Kamasutra talks about homosexuality or not and he said that homosexuality is in existence for the long time, even Babar was fond of males. He said that Afghanistan seems to have the most strong gay culture in the world at present time. It was a really interesting answer. Something else very interesting thing happened while one of our classes about Islam. We had a professor from Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi to deliver a lecturer about Islam. One of the participants asked him about the condition of women in Islam and his answer was the condition of women is terrible in all the religions.

He did not say anything in particular about the condition of women in Islam. Then one other participant told him about how liberal Hindi society was in terms of condition of women, and then the professor just smiled and said why Sita had to give Agni Pariksha . The participant wanted to say something but the professor did not want to hear him. He just left the classroom saying that he was getting late.The program is very nice and I am loving it. I am looking forward to the next four weeks of the training.

Guide training program – week 1 and week 2

The first two weeks of guide training program is over and I am really surprised to see the quality of education here. The institute is very nice, the professors are very helpful and friendly. On the first day of the training they just introduced the institute and the professors to the participants. They talked about the swine flu as well. They told us about the symptoms of swine flu and asked us to take care of our health. They said that if anybody had any symptoms of swine flu, they may contact a particular department at the institute which would take the students to the government hospital and would take care of the student.

All of the professors here are just amazing. They go to foreign universities every year to teach. The teachers at the schools and the university I went to were crazy; they were very strict teachers but here all the professors are very friendly. They use a lot of technology. All of them have laptops which they bring in the classroom and show the powerpoint presentations through a projector. The training was supposed to talk place at the institute but they changed the place because they did not have any AC room available in the institute. The AC rooms were busy with other programs.

They have hired a hotel conference room for our training which has AC. The participants are divided into four batches- A,B,C and D. The batch A and B take training in the morning session which starts from 10 and ends at 2 and the batch C and D get training in the second session which starts from 2.15 and ends at 6.15. I am in the second batch. Over 95% of the participants of the program are experienced unauthorized guides. I am the only one in my batch who has never worked with any travel agency. A few participants are over 55 years old.

Every time before the training starts, the professors say that the participants might have better knowledge than them so if there is anything that participants don’t agree with, they may tell it to the professors. Our professors are not only from IITTM but they come from different universities and institutions of India. Everyday we have a different professor to give lecture on a different subject. The institute tells that a tour guide is a living encyclopedia so he must have knowledge of everything and that is why they are inviting experts of different fields from different places in India to give lecture.

Our training is for North India but there were professors who gave us lecture about west, south and other regions of India. I liked all the classes but there were two classes that were just crazy. One of them was about Indian astrology and other one was about menu planning in hotels. The astrology class could have been interesting if the professor had given a lecture about basics of the Indian astrology but he teaching us the things that are taught after one or two years of attending the astrology classes. He was more concerned about his marketing. He was telling about what color favors a person, what color is bad, what stone one should wear, when to wear… and then finally he gave us his business card and said that if anybody wanted to contact him for their personal problem, they could meet him in Rajasthan at his office.

I just really did not understand the need to give classes about menu planning in the hotel. It could have been an interesting class if he would have taught us about the hotel culture but he was teaching about how hotels plan their menu, what do they think while planning the menu, how hotels make money from their restaurant… I don’t know but I did not like that class and not only me none of the participants in the class understood why we were taught about menu planning. They are teaching us about everything- different segments of tourism, different religions, cultures, cuisine, IT in tourism, tourism industry in India and abroad…

Something that was very interesting to me was a segment of tourism which is gay and LGBT tourism. I did not know about this tourism but it seemed very interesting to me. All the participants will be given six weeks of classroom teaching, one week of orientation tour and then the participants will have to do field work for nine weeks in their area on a particular subject. I have thought to do my field work on gay and LGBT tourism because no other student is going to do it and it is a very good opportunity for me to relate my research with guide training program.

The professors here know about a lot of social issues and they are educating us about it. They talk about Coca-Cola issue, environmental issues, water issues, women rights… One of our classes was about how to use IT in tourism and they taught us about blogging. Before starting the class, the professor asked us about our expectation from the class and different people asked for different things like emailing, blogging, web-designing but I already knew about these things so I asked about search engine optimization and of course he did not tell me about it.

I think the reason behind him not telling me about search engine optimization was that all the participants hardly know about emailing and he did not want to talk about search engine optimization in front of the people who did not know much about Internet. But the class was fun, I was enjoying it. The coordinator of the program was telling that we should be proud that we are provided such training because in the past training programs they could not even organize 20 classes but this year they have to planned to organize at least 75 classes on different subjects. I am enjoying the training and really looking forward for my research about LGBT tourism in Benares.

Guide training program – introduction

I arrived in Gwalior today to attend the tour guide training program. Since the institute had informed me about the training only 10 days ago, I could not organize my stay in Gwalior. I just arrived here, went to a dharamshala and hired a room for today. I had contacted my one friend in Delhi who is also in the same program about renting an apartment in Gwalior for our whole stay. He also arrived today with his one friend who is doing his PhD in Urdu at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Prem, my friend from Delhi, knew someone in Gwalior and he had asked his friend to find an apartment for us.

Prem met with his friend right after arriving here and his friend took him to show few apartments near the training place. Finally we have chosen a 2 BHK apartment near the institute. We have few mats and few other household stuffs but there is a huge problem of water here. The tap water is not safe to drink and there is no shopkeeper selling branded bottled water. I don’t know how to deal with this, but definitely some solution would come up. I have bought a Internet data card which is working fine so I will have 24 hours Internet access even in Gwalior:) My training is starting from tomorrow and I am so excited for it

My bed for next two months

My bed for next two months