It was the first time when I worked with a group staying at Singh Guesthouse in Varanasi. It was a group of 11 Americans who were followers of Mata Anandmayi and were on pilgrimage in Varanasi. They had intentionally chosen this guesthouse because it was close to Mata Anandmayi Ashram in Varanasi. Since I was working with them as their tour guide, I was supposed to book the hotel and make other arrangements well in advance. I personally went to Singh Guesthouse two month before the group arrived to make a reservation. The room was booked by taking an advance payment of Rs. 10,000 and everything seemed perfect to me.
It had a nice location, green garden, very rare to find in Varanasi and good atmosphere. The group finally arrived in Varanasi but their train was delayed by 14 hours and arrived at 2 am. The hotel owner personally went to the railway station to pick them up which was really nice of him. The next morning I got a call from the group leader saying the hotel was very nice and the hotel owner and other staffs were also very nice. I was happy to see my guests in good hands. After 30 minutes of this call I got another call from the hotel owner which changed my ideas completely.
The hotel owner asked me to tell the group that if the group ever needed anything then they would have to buy it from the hotel itself. He said that people staying at Singh Guesthouse are not allowed to use any kind of services offered by anyone else. It was really strange. He asked me to tell the group that boats, tourist guides, shopping and all other services are available at the guesthouse and it is compulsion for the group to use only their services. I told him that I am also a government approved tourist guide and I was hired to arrange the same services for them and then he asked me to leave the group.
It was hard for me to even understand what he was talking about. I went to the hotel to meet with him personally and again he was the same way. He was forcing me to either leave the group or bring my guests to the shops and give him commission. When I was talking with him, his brothers and other staffs also came and now I was surrounded by 5-6 people asking for the same thing. They were so stupid that once they were suggesting me different ways of how I could leave the group without having any problem. The owner himself suggested me to tell the group that I did not know much about Varanasi and the guides offered by Singh Guesthouse were much knowledgeable than me.
I told them that it was just impossible and I was not going to leave the group or tell them any lies and then the owner said that if I do not leave the group then he would kick the group out of the hotel. I was like what??? I confirmed it with him several times and every time he told me that if the group was found using any commercial services being offered by any other institution then he would kick the group out of the hotel. He said that such things are part of their business policy. He was so rude and nonsense person. He asked me to tell the same to the group. I was not sure what he was talking about and confirmed it several times with him.
Finally I went to the group and explained them the whole situation and the group got so angry. They had a fight with the hotel owner and finally they decided to leave the hotel immediately. Neither the group nor I was feeling safe in the hotel anymore. We decided to look for other hotels. By the time we were going out of the hotel for sight seeing, the hotel manager showed up with his other staffs and started shouting at me. He said it was not good of me that I informed the group about everything. I told him that he was the one who had asked me to do so and then this stupid person was like if I tell you to jump in the well, would you do so?
He was shouting at me, threatening me… He said that since I am new in the trade I don’t know how it works and I should not act too close to my guests. It was really strange behavior from the hotel staffs and owner and I decided that I won’t go back to this guesthouse anymore in my whole life. I decided to do some research about this guesthouse and realized that their business is completely dependent on the auto-rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers and other touts who bring guests there. They do not have a website but they still get good business because they offer very good commission to the people who bring guests to them.
I still do not understand how stupid and nonsense this person was. He never thought what would happen with him if either I or someone from the group writes about his guesthouse. I have already reported about another hotel called Hotel Haifa in Varanasi which has this policy of not allowing Indians inside the hotel and they had to face problems. I know a few people personally who either did not stay at Hotel Haifa or changed the hotel after reading my report and I sure some people would find this post and would change their decision of staying at Singh Guesthouse and support my fight against corruption in tourism. Thanks.