I got my tourist guide license four years ago and I was really confused about how I was going to work. My elder brother works for an Italian tour company, my cousin is also an Italian speaking tourist guide and I have grown up in a city where tourism is very important part of economy. Everyone was giving me different suggestions but most of them recommended me to visit some travel agencies with my CV and ask for work because this is the traditional way of getting work in tourism industry for tour guides. I was already blogging and I had developed a sense of finding right customers online so I was not really if I needed to contact travel agencies and in any case I was upset with usual travel agency’s practices like forced shopping and considering the guest only as a person whom you don’t think about meeting again in future.
I had already met with so many western people way before I got my license so I already had a sense about what western tourists want. And in any case my work as a translator or research assistant gave me the best practical knowledge possible, which a lot of guides miss, about western culture. So I decided to work in the same way I was already doing by promoting my business online. My friend Lane from Seattle helped a lot by putting up a website for my tour business. In the beginning it was not working at all and I realized that only having a website was not enough and I needed some kind of advertisement. In the beginning I used platforms like google business or craigslist but it was not really working well, I was still not getting enough work.
During the tour guide training program, we were taught that as per a survey organized by some International travel agency if a tourist is happy with the services of the travel agent then he is likely to tell about his experience to around 5 people but if he is upset then he is likely to share his experience with around 13 people which means there is no margin for error in this tourism business. I started working keeping this idea in my mind that I don’t have any rights to do anything which my guest doesn’t feel comfortable with. I was meeting with a lot of people through different online travel forums and just tried to perform my best. During this time so many people wrote about my services on online travel forums like Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and Indiamike.
Indiamike got me a lot of business and I was really happy with it. A few months ago Tripadvisor contacted me and they provided me a space on their website. Most probably some of my guests had asked Tripadvisor to list me on their website. I had heard about Tripadvisor so many times and everyone said that it was very big and so many people use it. I was really excited to be listed on Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor asked me to ask my guests to share their reviews about my services. It took me only four months and now I am ranked 1 on Varanasi page. I don’t know how it will change my business but I have noticed one thing that so many people contact me. It is a very big responsibility for me to carry on the same quality but I try my best.
I am also considering training other people so that we can work together with more than one group a day. In fact I tried it during last tourist season and it worked very well. I know that this coming tourist season will be much more busier than the last one and I need to be more prepared to handle the traffic. And keeping this idea in my mind I have already made contacts with other government approved tourist guides, have given them a sense about my style of work and they all have agreed on working with me. The biggest worry for me about hiring other guides was if they would ask my guests to go shopping with them as they usually do with their guests. I told them that I don’t do it in my business : I ask for more rather than stealing or cheating my guests.
All of the guides whom I met they also believed in me and said that if they get good salary then why they would take their guests for shopping. I have promised them extra money and just by getting this extra money they were all happy to take my guests without shopping. Everything is working very well so far and I am really excited for next tourist season. My tripadvisor page is here.
Woman rights have always been a very issue in India ever since it was affected by invaders. And now the situation has become worse. If we look at India before invaders came, we see that India was a very liberal society with woman and men both having equal rights. But as soon as invaders came, they changed Indian society completely. They implemented so many rules to keep women behind curtain which kind of separated them from the society and caused serious discrimination against them and now these practices have become part of life in India. I travel a lot across India and as a person interested in human behavior, I try never to miss any opportunity of talking with people, doesn’t matter what subject.
Every once in a while I encounter in such conversations where people are talking about girls and just listening to them gives me a sense about how do they see woman, even who are their family. People react in seriously strange way when talking about woman. Three of my friends have daughters and I still remember that when I spoke to them first time after their baby was born, all of them told me somehow the same thing that were happy EVEN if the baby was a girl. I mean if someone becomes a parent then naturally they are happy and there is no need of mentioning whether they got a girl or boy. I could easily see that they were so happy, just as any new parent, but at the same time they were depressed also. There was definitely something missing out of their happiness.
The compliments of others who came to visit the baby at the hospitals were also very strange. They would come and ask if it was a male or female baby and as soon as they heard that it was a female baby, they would go like : Oh, but its not a problem, now the world has changed and girls are also doing so many nice things. These kind of compliments easily showed that the people already had an idea in their mind that the parents were not so happy. Noticing such behavior raise serious question of gender issues in India. We heard about Damini rape case in December last year and I noticed how big news it had become. Everyone was talking about it, people were protesting on the streets, media had nothing else to talk about other than this rape case, our politicians got a news subject to talk about : the party in power was promising some serious step and the opposition party also got an issue to make the other party look down.
I was wondering why everyone was so serious about this particular case when such things have been happening and will happen, because I don’t have any hope from the government at all and police is cent-percent corrupt, in future as well??? What about other Daminis who were also raped and murdered in the past? There has not been a single day ever since Damini was raped when some other girl was not raped in such or worse condition somewhere in India, including several in Delhi itself. It is my daily routine to read newspaper as soon as I wake up and I never find my newspaper not talking about some rape case somewhere in India. Reports are same more or less everyday that a girl was raped and thrown somewhere in either half naked or fully nude condition: when family went to the police asking them to register a complaint police did not register the complaint: but when media got involved, police registered the complaint: ministers also promised something etc.
I have read several articles saying police itself raped someone inside the police station. I also read an article about a 40 years old woman who was raped by 3 men. When she went to the police station, the Police did not register her complain. When media heard about the issue and contacted to the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police), the SSP himself said on camera that this woman was lying. She was too old get raped. In fact he asked media why someone would rape her if she is already over 40??? I was like what the hell is this? We all know it very well that it is very complicated for a person to get their complain registered and police does it all the time because once they register the complain they have to solve it also and Police never have time to solve any problem, they are always busy either relaxing, making fake reports, taking bribe or planning to torture someone without any reason but having such kind of excuse from a very responsible and senior police officer??? Later the SSP was suspended but I know that he will be back soon.
Last year an IAS officer tried to rape a 16 year old girl on a running train. Under pressure of other people traveling on the train, police had to register a complain but the very next day media reported that several ministers and other big officers either went to the police station or made a phone call asking police to take the complain back. But since the issue had already been noticed by media, police could not do anything and case was still going on. Finally last week I read another article in the news paper saying that the District Magistrate case was closed in the lack of evidence. The District Magistrate never spent a night in the prison and the case was also finalized only within a few months otherwise India has got most number of legal cases pending in the whole world and usually it takes years for a case to get finalized.
Another horrible case, I would say the worse one is of Sonali Mukharjee, a girl from Dhanbad, Jharkhand (Previously was part of Bihar state). Three boys from her neighborhood attacked her with acid while she was sleeping on her roof top in 2003 and the boys who attacked her are out of prison having fun or planning to attack another Sonali and no one talks about her. The only mistake Sonali did that she refused love proposal of a boy and that’s all. He attacked her with his two other friends and threw acid on her face. Sonali’s story is that she belonged to a poor family. Her father was a security guard at some residential building which means not more than Rs. 5-6000 of income per month. Her mother was a house wife and she had a younger sister as well.
Sonali was so smart in studies that her school had given her life-long scholarship, she was so popular in her school and her parents were so proud their daughter. She was also a National Cadet Corps cadet. In 2003, almost one and half months prior to the incident, three alleged assailants – Tapas Mitra, and his two friends Sanjay Paswan and Bhrahmadev Hajra – told her that she was a Ghamandi (arrogant) person and they would teach her a lesson. Her father later complained to the families of the three men. On 22 April, when she was asleep on the roof of her house, she was attacked with acid and left with a burnt face and other severe injuries. Her sister was also injured in the incident. She was studying sociology honours in a Dhanbad women’s college and also juggling a job with a private firm when the horrific incident occurred.
Miss Mukherjee and her family were then forced to abandon their home in Dhanbad, and her mother slipped into depression. Her father Chandi Das Mukherjee said, ‘We appealed in the high court… Nothing happened. They were sent to jail but were released soon after… Now they are busy enjoying their lives.”The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis. Police sources said that the victim and her family members are afraid since two of her attackers, Tapas Mitra and Sanjay Paswan, were released on bail six years ago. The third accused Brahmadev Hajra was let off as he was a juvenile at the time of crime. She also pleaded with the Indian authorities to help her find justice, or else allow her to die.
A report about Sonali asking for either justice or mercy killing:
Sonali appealing people to help her by signing a petition
After all these things Sonali never got justice and the criminals are enjoying their lives, maybe planning to attack another Sonali. I just don’t understand all these craziness and in fact it is increasing. More and more girls are raped everyday and different people have different opinion about it. I have talked with several people on this issue and most of them, over 90%, blame girl’s dressing and modern life style. Many people also blame poverty, illiteracy and even Internet. Neither of these sound genuine cause to me. If its girls dressing or modern life style which motivates people to rape them then what about that 5 years old girl who was raped brutally in Delhi and so many like her are raped every day in our society. We heard about her only because media paid attention otherwise I can guarantee that so many other kids are raped everyday but we never hear about them.
I have also heard of so many cases which took place in rich and highly educated families which clearly shows that this problem is not limited amongst poor or illiterate class. I went through a very interesting conversation about Damini rape case in January when I was traveling on a train from Pune to Varanasi. I was in non AC sleeper class which is mostly used by lower middle class families. All of the people around me where from Bihar who were working in Pune and now going back home on vacations. I heard them talking about how do they find people living in Pune so different than the people living in Bihar. They were saying that all of the young people of Pune waste their whole time with their partners because the parents have got a lot of money and kids don’t care about their future at all.
They were also saying that they see young couples kissing in public spaces or showing other form of PDAs which cause frustration amongst the people like themselves who come from other cities or states where they never see such thing happening. They said that Damini was also raped because of such reason. The people who raped her came from Bihar, and as per the people sitting on the train, it was not their fault that they raped Damini but it was Damini’s fault that she was out with her friends in midnight watching a movie. They were saying that the people who move to big cities to work always leave their wives back at home. And if they see such activities like kissing or something else then they also feel like having sex and since their wives are home, either they have quit their job to go back home or find someone in city where they are at that moment.
And definitely nobody would quit the job, instead rape someone in the city. It was a horrible communication but at the same time it showed the mind set of such people. PDAs is serious issue in India. I know that everyone wants to do it but they don’t because of the local culture. But its becoming more and more common which means more and more people are upset with it. I have heard several incidents when a couple was beaten only because they were found kissing. There is a park very close to my place and it has become kind of love nest amongst young people of my city. I know so many people living around the park area who say that every evening they hide somewhere behind the trees trying to find a couple kissing or doing something else and if anyone is found then they either throw stones at them or just jump in between and say that they also want to kiss the girl or just chase them away and later disturb the girl.
I have noticed if people find a couple kissing then they thinking that the girl wants to be kissed, just by anyone and hence they also deserve a kiss. I used to go sit behind the park every night with my friends, have some beer and enjoy the quietness. I noticed certain people who would come every day with a flash light and try to look everyone sitting here and there. It was a very strange thing to see same people every day and once I asked my friends from that neighborhood about those people and they said that these people basically try to find couples kissing or having sex. And if any couple is found doing anything other than talking then problem for them. These people threaten the couples and in some cases beat the boy, kick him out and then have sex with the girl. I have talked with so many people about what do they think about a couple kissing in a park or just at any other public space and most of them have really strange ideas.
I was once talking with one of my friends, who is my age and is a software engineer and he said that if a couple is beaten because they were found kissing in public then there is nothing wrong with it. He thinks that public places are open for all aged people and kissing is something very very sexual and private. In fact he asked me how would I react if I see a couple kissing in a park where I am present with my family. I don’t know what would I do, most probably just not pay attention to them and let them enjoy their private moment. I have no idea what is the reason behind all these problems but rapes have made the situation worse and it seems like its not going to change soon. But if I have to make a guess about my society, I would say it’s the Police, government of India, late and corrupt judiciary, some cultural problems and regular sick mind which is causing all these problems.
Police is 100% corrupt and they never want to register complaints because if they register a case then it becomes their responsibility to clear it and in any case any Indian police officer can be bought by offering some money. Corruption in police has caused serious problems in India. I feel like Police is somehow responsible for all of the problems we have in India. Late judiciary is also a very big problem in India which basically somehow motivates people to do crime. People know that if the go to a court then it will take 30-40 years for so called judgment to come. And in any case there is always a way : after district court, its high court : after high court, its supreme court : after supreme court, it’s the parliament and after parliament it’s the president where one can appeal. I know several people who were able to get the hearing delayed just by offering a few hundred rupees as a bribe.
Government also makes so many promises but never does anything. All of the political parties do politics in the name of caste, religion and region. They have nothing to do with development, education or any other issue that we are facing. I think that governments can do anything if they are committed to make a change but they don’t have any interest in such issues. Nature is dying, crime has increased, poverty is increasing, inflation is on top, scams are the biggest in the world…but government has no time to think about these serious issues. They are always busy in talking bullshit and doing scams. India has so many problems coming from its culture. For an example, the problem of hierarchy on the basis of somebody’s caste or wealth. People evaluate themselves by their caste and literally talk about it in their regular conversations.
I know many people who belong to Kshatriya caste and they always say that they have politics in their blood, they are always the best fighters because they belong to Kashtriya caste…although they are really stupid. The male dominant culture in India is also causing such problem like discrimination and violence against women. I find present India really weird because woman power is worshiped by worshiping Goddesses when they are dead statues but real woman are raped so brutally that it becomes an International news. India, particularly Hindus, have a great concept of respecting woman. In fact the term used for women is Shakti which means power but I don’t know where all these concepts are lost? Female infanticide, depressed woman, violence and discrimination… after looking at the present condition of woman in India, it doesn’t seem like there is any concept of worshiping Goddesses or respecting Goddess power at all.
I am upset, India is upset, Mother India is crying and we need to change the situation. Lets pray that India gets its glory again and we become a really great nation where there is no discrimination against anyone….
In Hinduism, Akhara (also akhada) is an association of the different sects of Yogis, also known as Sadhus (Hindu Renunciates). Its history dates back to the eighth century when Adi Shankaracharya established seven Akharas. Some yogis revere Gorakhnath as the founder rather than Shankaracharya. The 7 ancient Akharas are Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand Akhara. Today there are 3 major Akharas (Juna, Mahanirvani and Niranjani) and 3 minor Akharas (Atal affiliated with Mahanirvani, Anand affiliated with Niranjan). Traditionally during the Kumbh Mela, the Naga Sadhus, and the ‘Akharas’, lead and initiate the bathing rituals, before the general population steps in.
Since these group of Sadhus reside in different parts of India, they all have to gather together and then they follow the festival or whatever the reason could be. There is also something very important process of participating in the festival which is called Peshwani. Basically Peshwani is a procession organized to show the official arrival of a group of Sadhus in a city. The same Peshwani was organized by Juna Akhada in Varanasi during Kumbh Mela 2013. I had heard a lot of Peshwanis but had never seen one but luckily this year I got an opportunity to see it. I made a video also which Peshwani of Juna Akhada in Varanasi on 2nd of March 2013 :
My tourist guide license was issued in January 2010 and it was valid up to 29th of January, 2013. My license said that I needed to surrender my license 45 days before the date of expiry in order to get it renewed. I started contacting Ministry of Tourism office in New Delhi and it seemed like they did not have any information. Every time I contacted them they said that I should contact my local tourist guide association. It was a very big problem for me because I never took any membership of any guide association in Varanasi. Finally I got some information from one of my friends in Delhi. He had the proforma of the form I need to fill up.
He also told me that I needed to go to Delhi personally to deposit my license with tourism office. My friend suggested me to talk with the Delhi office before leaving for Delhi. I contacted the Delhi office and they told me a really strange rule that they would accept renewal application only on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays in the second and third week of January. I was already booked for the second week hence I had to cancel a couple of bookings from the first week and flew to Delhi. I reached at the tourism office in Delhi around 11 AM and they asked me come after 4 PM. I thought that they asked me to come later because maybe the concerned office was not present there.
I was just wandering around here and there for 5 hours and finally when I reached there again by 4, the same officer whom I met in the morning took my application, made me sign on a few papers and issued me a temporary license which said that my license was under renewal process hence I am allowed to work as a regional level tourist guide till 31st of April. I have no idea why they called me to Delhi if they only wanted me to sign a few papers or made me wait for 5 hours if the same person from the morning was responsible for issuing my license. If it was all about signing a few papers then they should have better organized it by post or online. I don’t know when we will start using our IT knowledge for ourselves. Anyways, everything went well but I didn’t like going to Delhi.
There are street dogs everywhere in India and seeing them mating is not uncommon at all. And seeing them being stuck together after mating is also as usual as seeing a dog on the street. I had always thought why it happened to them because it looks really painful but I never tried to find the answer for whatever reason. A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me a really interesting Hindu explanation of why dogs stuck together after mating. He said the reason comes from the epic Mahabharta. As per Mahabharata it is said that Pandavas shared a common wife named Draupadi.
The reason why they shared common wife is because Arjun, one of the brothers, married Draupadi in a swayamvar and when he returned home with his wife and other brothers they went straight to their mother Kunti. Kunti often advised her sons that they share everything they have (or obtain through Bhiksha, i.e. alms) equally amongst themselves. Upon returning home with Draupadi, on purpose, Yudhisthira addresses his mother first “Look mother, what we have brought “. Kunti, unmindful of what Yudhisthira was referring to, unassumingly asked her son to share whatever it is with his brothers. Thus, in order to obey their mother’s order all five accepted Draupadi as their wife.
Now the story begins about why dogs stuck together after mating. As per my friend in order to organize the sex, Pandavas decided that whenever somebody would enter in the room of Draupadi they would leave their sandals on the door so that other brothers know whats going on inside the room. Once one of the brothers was having sex with Draupadi and left his sandals on the door. Later a dog came and stole the sandals and went playing with it in jungle. Bheem, one of the brothers, also wanted to have sex and he approached towards Draupadi’s room and as usual he looked at the door first to see if somebody was inside and had left the sandals outside.
But since the sandals were stolen by a dog he did not see the sandals and entered in the room and found Draupadi having sex with one of his brothers. The brother who was having sex was seriously upset on Bheem and asked him why didn’t he check the sandals before entering in the room. Bheem was also upset and he was asking why didn’t he leave the sandals at the door before entering in Draupadi’s room for sex. Bheem said that he did not see any sandal on the door and they went out together but did not find the sandals. They were seriously angry on the person who did it and decided to find him.
They went to close by places looking for the sandals and the person who had stolen it and found a dog playing with it. They were so angry on the dog that they cursed him. The brother who was having sex said ” Oh dog, the reason why a person was able to see me having sex, which is a very very personal moment of somebody’s life, is only because you hence I curse you today that the whole world will see your private moment every time you have sex and since then all the dogs stuck together after mating and can’t separate until so many people have already seen them.
As per my friend, the curse is the reason why the dogs stuck. I did not believe my friend at all but since then I asked several people if they knew the reason and all of them told me the same thing. I asked them where did they read this story and none of them remembered. For whatever reason I don’t really believe that this story comes from Mahabharata but at the same time I have read so many other stories which are similar to the dog’s story. Anyways, I found the story very funny and interesting. Hindus have answer to every question and maybe this story is also the answer of dog’s pain:)
I have no intention of hurting someone’s belief or disrespecting the religion but I just shared this story because I found it really funny. I hope you enjoyed it:)
I grew up in the society where talking about ghosts, demons, spirits… is part of life. There were places where I asked not to go during certain time of the day and nights because it was believed that there were ghosts around those areas and I literally followed it. There were minimum of 10 such places only around my home. Anyways, I have became more interested in ghosts within past 10 years but my interest is in finding why people believe in ghosts and how it affects their life. I never want to miss visiting a place which is supposed to have some power of dealing with ghosts or just talk with someone who says that he is affected by ghosts or can deal with ghosts.
I have already visited so many such places and have talked with so many such people. I have been hearing about a place called Harsu Baramh for really long time which is only 70-80 KMs from Varanasi and is supposed to be the place where one can get rid of any kind of ghosts and demons. The word Harsu Baramh is made of two words- Harsu Baramah. Harsu was a bramhin guy and Baramah is a particular kind of spirit which has access to limited number of people in certain area. Baramahs don’t fly or take a train to affect the people away from their locality.
Another belief about Baramh is that it is unsatisfied or disappointed soul of a Bramhin who wants to be worshiped. The story of Harsu is that he lived in a village called Chainpur, in modern day Bihar, with his family and worked as a Bramhin. He was donated a huge house which was located right in front of the King’s palace. His home had two minarets which were in fact taller than the minarets of King’s palace which made the queen upset. She saw it as her disrespect and asked the king to do something so that minarets at her palace looks taller than the minarets at Harsu’s home.
The king also did not like that Harsu home’s minarets were taller than the minarets of his palace and he ordered his army to knock down the minarets at Harsu’s home and burn the whole house. His solders knocked down the whole building and burnt it. Harsu was on work when his house was being burnt but when he heard about it, he ran towards his home. When he reached home, he saw his family dying by being burnt alive and building completely destroyed. Harsu got so angry that he cursed the king that he would become a Baramh by killing himself and would then take the revenge.
Harsu Baramh also jumped in the same fire and killed himself. Harsu was back later in the form of Baramh and killed the king. This idea is so strong amongst the community that they recognize Harsu as the king of Baramh and now there is a shrine located in the same village where Harsu came from. People believe that if a person is affected by ghost and no one is able to help him getting rid of the ghosts then he should come to Harsu Baramh. I also decided to visit Harsu Baramh in order to learn more about the idea of ghosts and exorcism. It was a Sunday the day I visited Harsu Baramh and I was expecting to see a lot of people but shockingly there were not many people.
When I visit any regular temples or holy shrines then I try to be respectful to the people and their beliefs but don’t follow all the rules. I don’t feel comfortable making any kind of offering, whether in form of cash or food or sweets or anything, at the temples because I know that as per real religious rules these things are not important. But when I reached to Harsu Baramh, I was so nervous that I decided to go with all the rules of that particular place. I was nervous because I knew that it was not a regular temple and the people who were there believed in the ghosts more than the God himself.
Anyways, I bought some sweets to offer at the shrine in order to be completely normal visitor. I don’t know how to explain what I was feeling when approaching to the shrine but I was not feeling the way I usually am but at the same time I was so excited. I arrived at the shrine but found it black, smoky and really strange place. There was nothing going on, that place had a really empty feeling. There were a few people working as a priest and maybe 20-30 people behaving strangely. The regional idea in my locality is that when somebody is affected by ghosts they move their head in circle, women open their hair, hit their head on the ground and try to hurt themselves and we call this process in Hindi- the person is playing.
And another idea is that when someone affected by ghosts arrive at such places like Harsu Baramh then they immediately start to play. So I saw those 20-30 people playing. One of them was really funny. I saw him arriving inside the shrine premises. He looked completely normal when he arrived. He was holding a towel and went at a corner and sat their quietly. He looked at the shrine for a few minutes, folded his towel, kept it right in front of himself on the ground and started hitting his head on the ground which means he started playing.
He used the towel so that he doesn’t hurt himself. I saw another lady who was playing. She would play by shaking her head, rolling her body on the ground, making some strange noises and then look at others around her and then sit quietly. Anyways, it was very interesting to see those people but I felt so sorry for them. I was like how come someone could really hurt themselves only in the name of ghosts who are never ever been seen by any person in the whole world. I understand it very well that we get to see what we want to see and if there are people who believe in ghosts then they get to see them.
Its sad for me to see that there are people who are more concerned about invisible pain than the visible pain. Its impossible for me to imagine the mindset of such people who believe in the ghosts and kill their time, money and themselves by going to such places where they can get rid of their ghosts. The shrine at Harsu Baramh was so strange that I did not even think about taking a picture. Every place has a unique feeling but Harsu Baramh had no feeling at all. When I go to temples or other religious places I feel something there because there are a lot of people doing the same thing.
Especially when I go to any Hindu place then I find it very energetic because Hindu religion is a very loud religion and people sing chantings loudly, play drums, recite mantras together which makes the place very energetic but Harsu Baramh was a sad and strange place with complete empty feeling. Later I learnt that it was my mistake that I went to Harsu Baramh on Sunday because Thrusday is the important day for the shrine when hundreds of people come. Anyways, it was good that I got some entertainment and went on a long drive which I always enjoy. I think this journey of finding a ghost will continue for me as I have not been successful so far!!!
Public display of affection is something not seen at all in India. Actually its very strange here. The people who love each other are not supposed to show any physical intimacy in public whereas regular friends can hug each other, hold hands and sometimes kiss on cheeks. Holding hands and hugging is the most common act of physical intimacy seen in India amongst same sex person but it doesn’t mean that they are homosexuals. Its again very strange that homosexuals never want to hold hands, hug or kiss each other in public because homosexuality is very very hidden and homosexual people don’t want to express their sexuality. I have met so many Europeans and Americans who always thought that same sex people holdings hand of each other are homosexual because this is how it works in their world.
a middle aged couple in Vienna
Usually friends do such things and there is no idea making love behind it. If people see a couple kissing or hugging they want to watch it. Holding hands is kind of becoming common and is not kind of issue anymore in big Indian cities. Anyways, I have also grown up in the same culture where I never saw any act of physical intimacy in public. My city gets a lot of western people from all over the world who some time kiss and hug in public so at least people in my city have an idea about it. Every once in a while we see some crazy drunk westerner making love on the street. Making love doesn’t mean having sex but finding a westerner kissing or hugging is not something unknown to the people of Varanasi. Doesn’t matter whether they have seen it or not but they are very well aware of this culture.
an old couple in Vienna
I think that having sex or watching people having sex has always been one of the biggest attractions amongst us humans in our whole history. But the world has changed a lot within past a few decades. There are several countries and cultures where sex is discussed, is opened (doesn’t mean in public: in fact there are places where people can go in groups and have sex but is usually a group activity rather than a public activity), people have a choice and it is seen in a very different way than the it is seen in my culture and country. This idea of watching people making love or just seeing them in their undergarments is very exciting for Indians because we just don’t see such thing happening. And whenever we see someone in such condition, most of the time they are western people.
an old couple in Vienna
I am very well aware that a lot of people go to places like Goa in India just to watch western woman in bikinis. In fact, when I went to Goa first time in my life it was also to watch western girls in bikinis and find cheap alcohol. To be honest most of the woman I saw in Goa were old with ugly bodies:) Still when I see someone kissing on the street my eyes like to stop and watch it. But I usually try to avoid it because I don’t like to disturb people but my mind still talks with me about that picture while I am trying not to watch them. I think situation should be the same with most of the Indians, even the ones who try not to watch people kissing or making love. And I don’t really mind it because we just don’t see such thing happening and foreigners should also learn about these cultural issues before coming here and try to respect and be respected. But at the same time we can’t blame foreigners either because it is very important part of their culture.
a newly married couple in Buda
Anyways, I got to travel to Europe (Hungary, Austria and Slovakia) , in fact anywhere out of India for first time in my life a few weeks ago. Everything was different than what I was used to hence everything was a shock, in fact very interesting shock. I don’t want to discuss about all those things in this post but I would like to discuss the idea of the importance of physical intimacy and public display of affection. I had started seeing couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on the lap, caressing, nestling… as soon as I crossed the immigration area at Delhi airport. The most interesting thing was that very good percentage of Indians were also involved in such act who usually never do such thing in public.
a young couple in Vienna
It seemed like they had planned to do it as soon as they leave India but could not wait for the flight to land:) haha. Maybe they had not planned it together with their partners but they had planned it with themselves for sure. Experience make us feel comfortable and I could easily see that Indians were not comfortable doing what they wanted to and looked completely inexperienced. hahaha. I am sure that they did not want to do sex in public but they just did not know what they were doing. They didn’t seem comfortable even in touching each other but they were trying their best. I am not making fun of those people I saw at the airport but It was really funny and interesting both for a person like me to see them. Because I just don’t see such thing happening in my society by the locals and they had changed their as soon as they crossed immigration area at the airport.
even statues were making love
When I arrived in Europe I saw people kissing and hugging just everywhere even inside a church. They were very comfortable with it and it seemed like it was just not an issue at all. I saw people kissing in the train, at the crossings, shopping malls, restaurants, zoo…just everywhere. It seems like kissing is as important as meat to Europeans. I saw all aged people, literally as young as 14 years old kissing in public. Kissing seems very important to Europeans. Once I saw a young shop keeper smooching her boyfriend in front of the customer and the customer waiting for them to finish.
couples at Szimplakart pub in Budapest
I was very well aware about this culture in Europe years before I went there but I was still surprised when I saw it first and my first few days were shocking for me in terms of seeing people making love on the street. I think I had stopped noticing or watching it after a week or so but it was something which won’t go out of my mind soon. In fact once I was discussing this issue with my host Attila and told him about how I saw Indians involved in physical intimation in public at Delhi airport or in Hungary or other European countries I visited and Attila was so surprised and he asked me why Indians don’t do such things in India also if they like to do it.
men and women dancing together at a cultural event in Kesthai, Budapest
Attila had already spent more than an year and half living in India and he was very well aware of what I was talking about. I did not know how to make him understand but his question was very genuine that why don’t we do it if we like to do it? I knew the answer but it was hard for an European mind to understand. Sex is very very hidden in India, even talking about it with parents and unknown people is something which just doesn’t happen. Everyone does sex but they don’t want to talk about it. I have met so many people, to be honest all of the people all I meet, who find such sexual acts like cunnilingus and several other sex positions very exciting but they never want to admit that they do it with their partners and always relate with something coming from the western world which is very dirty, disgusting and unnatural. haha
temple art in Khajuraho, India
I am sure that everyone does it but they just don’t admit, even when they are talking with their friends. It is again very interesting for me to see why people relate such sexual acts with western world when all of them are mentioned in Kamasutra or if they are present on the temples of Khajuraho and several others all over India. I think we were practicing all of those acts way before western people started talking about it, at least it was very open part of the society thousands of years before the first sex museum was opened in the world or anyone ever tried to document sex in this whole world. Anyways, my issue is about present India so I should about present.
A young couple in Bratislava, Slovakia
I just mean to say that sex is a very very hidden act in India which is one of the reason why we don’t see public display of affection in India. The second biggest reason behind this issue is the safety of woman in India, woman rights issues and in fact safety of couples also who dare to show physical intimacy in public. It was hard for Attila to understand why someone could be upset by watching others kissing but I understand it very well. Anyways, Attila only seemed upset and I could not satisfy him with my answers. The world knows how Shiv Sena was targeting people celebrating Valentines Day in India. If we try to learn how they were protesting against the festival then we can see that they were not actually looking for people celebrating the festival but mostly they were targeting the couples.
In fact kissing is seen as a form of greeting also in western culture. Men are kissing each other in a wedding part for greeting.
They wanted to beat the couples who were found together watching cinema, hanging around in the park or other public places. So it clearly means that they were protesting against the people and not the festival itself. And I know it very well that the all the people who were protesting against the festival either had a partner whom they went out with to celebrate festival the same day or definitely they wanted to have someone. And I personally know so many people from my own city, who were part of the Shiv Sena and were targeting people celebrating the festival, now are either married with the someone whom they loved or they have girlfriend.
a view of Rajdari waterfall from Devdari
Only after a week after I returned from Europe I went to visit a water fall 50 KMs from Varanasi called Raj Dari. This water fall is a very famous picnic spot for people living in Varanasi and nearby districts and hundreds of people visit the fall on Sundays during rainy season. I was there to find rock paintings and to watch people. The whole region of Chandauli district has several sites with ancient rock paintings and tree fossils which are said to be around 1400 million years old. While I was looking for ancient rock paintings I heard a group of people shouting which made me look at them
Couples bathing together in public is no problem in Europe
It was a group of like 15-20 men, all different aged, mostly young who were taking a bath. A young girl who was wearing Punjabi suit was also taking a bath hardly 20 meters away from them. She was with her boy friend and wearing Punjabi suit mean her whole body was covered with cloth. That group of 15 men was taunting at her. They were calling her with the name black panty. And they were doing it repeatedly in front of hundreds of other people who were there. They were taunting such things like- call us also, we are also very good…
usual scene at bathing places in Europe
The couple was doing nothing other than taking a bath, even they were not kissing or doing anything which can be considered as a sexual act. Her dress was also not different than bathing dress of woman in India. I am 100% sure that it happened with her only because she was with her boyfriend. Most probably such thing would have not happened with her if she was with her parents. It happens with woman even when they are with their families as well but it is more likely to face such situation when they are with their boyfriends. The girl was so nervous and uncomfortable with the situation that she came out of the water and walked away from there.
Even when she was walking away another group also joined and they all started taunting at her with vulgar languages. I know that such things are less likely to happen in big cities and one of the biggest reason behind why such happened is because those people were locals and there was no security at all. But the question that raised in my mind was-
Does a girl need security if she wants to take a bath at a water fall?
Are couples not allowed to be together?
What do such people think about the the couples who kiss or hug, do the think that the girl wants to be kissed and hugged by just anyone on the street or do they think that she is a slut?
What about freedom to express your feelings?
What about constitution of India which allows us to choose our life partner?
What about constitution of us human beings which allows us to live and let others live?
a couple in Bratislava, Slovakia
There are thousands of questions but its very sad that because of such practices we just don’t have any answer for them. The bitter truth is that if we try to study the mentality of such people then we find out that if they see a girl doing anything which can be considers a sexual act, even kissing or hugging, the girl is immediately thought to be a slut who is wanting such thing to be done with herself by just anyone. In small Indian cities and villages If a girl is found in relationship with anyone boy then people talk about it and now the whole neighborhood wants to try that girl out.
I don’t know what is right or wrong but it was really upsetting for me to see how that girl was being taunted and abused only because she was with her boyfriend. The radical and nationalist groups in India relate such things with something coming from the western world and we should not allow such things because it is against Indian culture. But I think we as a human have a human culture before we get into any particular country’s culture. Love, hate, emotions, feelings are natural human behavior and it just can’t be stopped. And in any case if something hurts us then we should try to control ourselves first and then think about others.
I still don’t know whether my Indian system is better than what I saw in Europe or not but one thing is very sure that woman are living in very tough condition in India. If we just look at this data it can easily tell the story about woman in India. But one thing I would like say for sure that whatever I saw in Europe looked really lovely and I saw Indians also enjoying it in Europe and missing in their own country. Jai Hind. I got a funny picture online which shows the difference I am trying to talk about-
I work in hospitality industry and I have been trying to learn about it ever since I started working. I had already heard about India having so many problems for tourists but never realized how serious the problem was. Every once in a while I heard about something but it was not possible for me to realize how big the problem was and how easily we could solve it and make more money and send our guests back with a positive impression about India. The biggest problem I was hearing all the time was the issue of forced shopping and I was seriously upset with it. For whatever reasons I was never ever interested in it but I was still happy with the money I was given for my services.
Now when I am back after my first trip out of India, my industry seem shockingly in terrible condition and I feel very sad about it. I traveled in Europe for 14 days and to be honest I was traveling ever hour of the day, except when I slept. I was just not at home at all. I went to all almost all kinds of tourist places possible in Europe and I was really surprised how easy everything was and how the government and people were so nice and welcoming for tourists. The only difference was the cost but its not an issue because life was very expensive in Europe and they definitely need to charge more.
And the good thing was that at least you get what you want after paying for it. Its just not possible at all to buy good services in India. I am not saying that its impossible to get good service but its very hard. I have no idea why such things are going on and why not government and the people of my country are serious about it. We need to understand that Tourism in India is relatively undeveloped, but a high growth sector. It contributes 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% of the total employment. A World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report says that by 2020, tourism in India could contribute Rs. 8,50,000 crores to the GDP. In other words, every man, woman and child could become richer by Rs.7,000. India has yet to realize its full potential from tourism.
The Travel and Tourism industry holds tremendous potential for India’s economy. It can provide impetus to other industries and create millions of new jobs. But we won’t be able to make this dream come true if we don’t organize our tourism industry. The major problems tourists face in India is the lack of basic infrastructure, behavior of people working in tourism industry (tourists guides, drivers, hotel staff, restaurants etc), unorganized services, people on the street targeting tourists etc. To be honest I don’t really think that we need to make huge changes, we can organize tourism only by making little efforts.
A few things happened with me in recent times which made me write this article. At first my Europe trip which was like an enlightenment for me other than that the first attraction with a foreign tourist after returning back to India. Actually it was going to be my first work after returning back to India. I was going to work with a Dutch family. I was going to take them on the boat ride. This assignment was given to me by a travel agency, the only agency I work with in whole India. Usually I talk with my guests the evening before the working day. I called the hotel several times but no one responded.
In fact they were staying at a very nice hotel in Varanasi and I was just not expecting such behavior at all but it happened. I wanted to talk with the guest just to reconfirm the timing and other details. I went to the hotel and met with the guest. The guest seemed seriously upset when I met with him at first. He told me- Thank you so much for coming otherwise I was not hoping to see anyone. I was really surprised why he told me such thing. I started talking with him and he said that he was traveling with his wife and daughter and he had requested his travel agent to provide them either a triple bed room or two different rooms but today he was provided only one double bed room.
And when he asked the hotel where would he sleep, the hotel said that they could give him a blanket and he needed to sleep on the floor. He was so upset with it and told me that his dog sleeps on the floor and he always sleep in his bed. He called his agent in India and they said that this is Indian way. Finally he decided to booked another room and paid from his pocket. He had already paid for everything but here he had to pay for the mistake he was not responsible for. The guest was so upset that he said he was very well aware the hotel guy and the travel agency guy sleeping in the bed but they did not care at all about him. I was really sorry for him but…
Anyways, I needed to discuss about my work with him next morning so we just sat together and discussed about the next morning. He said that he did not want to go on any boat ride as he was already super exhausted by traveling for 14 hours on a train and then having all the crazy experience at the hotel. He asked me if I could arrange his boat ride for the evening. As a tourist guide working for someone else it was not under my power to change his boat ride. As per the rules of the travel agency I was working with he needed to pay again because he was the one who wanted to cancel the tour. And in any case we would have to pay the boat guy doesn’t matter whether use him or not after making a booking.
He also seemed fine with this and asked me the price but when I told him the price he was again upset. He said that it was a rip off. I could easily see that he was prepared to tell this way before I told him the price because he was seriously upset with everything. He had no idea what I was asking for but he had developed this mentality that I was going to cheat him. I had asked him for Rs. 1200 per person and this is the rate travel agency in Varanasi charge. He had paid almost three times more to his agent for the morning boat he canceled but still Rs. 1200 seemed like a rip off to him.
I could easily see how upset and angry he was and I was the one who was dealing with him alone. I was seriously scared but I knew how to make Dutch people happy:) I have worked with many Dutch people already but the most important thing is that I have worked with a very popular TV channel called VPRO from The Netherlands. All the Dutch people I ever met know about this TV channel and they all way that they like this channel a lot and follow their programs as they are very progressive channel. And when I tell them that I have already done so many assignments and research for VPRO they become very interested in me and seem so comfortable and happy with me around them.
I knew it would make him happy and comfortable if I tell him about my relations with Dutchland so I shot my arrow and it worked. He was kind of shocked at first and later so happy and comfortable. He invited me to have a beer with him. We went on the roof top restaurant of the same hotel and ordered beer. We were just talking and talking about my work with Dutch people and what he could do the next day in Varanasi and already passed more than 20 minutes but no beer. Neither I nor the guest had any idea why the service was so later as beer is a packaged drink, the hotel did not need to produce it.
I asked the waitstaff again about our order and he said, it will come soon. I asked how soon and he said ten minutes. I asked why and he did not answer me. At this moment I thought maybe they went out to buy the beer and we started talking again. After ten minutes I again asked the waitstaff about our order and he just open the refrigerator right next to our table and gave the beer to us. The refrigerator was literally right next to our table, so close that I could easily opened and taken the beer out without leaving my chair. I just did not understand why he made us wait for 30 minutes???
Impossible to imagine but this is what happened. I can’t even imagine why they did not serve our order on time. Were they worried about me? Were they personally upset with the guest? Or do they just don’t care about their guests at all? Didn’t they care about the money we were going to give them by buying their goods? In any case if they did not want to entertain us then they should have just told us about it. Even after doing it no one said sorry or anything. No one explained why they were so late even when we asked them. Why such things happen?
Such kind of thing is just an example which happened recently with me otherwise I encounter something crazy every time I am working and I know it very well that most of the tourists must be facing similar problems, or maybe bigger, when they are in India. I spent fifteen days traveling in Hungary, Austria and Slovakia and I hardly noticed such things two three times but the problems I noticed in Europe was different and was not as extreme as here. It happened only once in Budapest when someone approached me trying to sell an iphone but it was very easy to avoid him. I noticed a problem second and time in Bratislava, Slovakia where a waitstaff at a restaurant did not speak any English and was dealing with customers.
We ordered something else and got something different. Other than this I just can’t think of any problem I noticed during those fifteen days. Now I wonder why can’t we also have similar kind of services here in India? I know that Indian government is crazy and I just don’t have any hope at all but what about services offered by people? Our attitude for tourists? At one hand we are so proud of saying that as per Indian culture the guest is like God (अतिथि देवो भव्) and on the other hand I am very well aware of such incidents where foreign guests were not treated even like a human? And it happened only because they were our foreign guests.
I have a strong feeling that the people not working in tourism industry are very friendly and nice and all the tourists like them a lot but unfortunately a lot of people who are working in tourism industry are really strange. They just don’t have any sense of tourism or hospitality at all. Another unfortunate thing is that the tourists don’t really get to meet many local people and mostly they interact with their agents or other people working in tourism where they develop strange ideas about India and I am not surprised at all. I would also develop the same mentality if such thing happened with me.
I still don’t forget the way my driver in Himanchal Pradesh had cheated me for only Rs. 100. The amount was nothing for me but that experience of being cheated changed my whole idea about him and I started to hate him and was not feeling secured at all. If we just look at any online travel forum about India then the forums are full of negative stories about India. In fact there are warnings. I know that a few people might be offended with my thinking about tourism industry in India but to be honest I experienced the difference and whatever I am writing is a bitter truth.
We really need to realize that there are problems. If we don’t admit that there are problems then we just won’t be able to solve them. Internet is changing the world. Now we can easily learn a lot about the any place in the world without visiting. We can talk with people without meeting them, we can share ideas and if India is getting negative impression online then we are going to be in huge problem. People read about India before coming here. We need to change otherwise one thing is very sure that we are not right track and things are not going work this way for very long.
I know that everyone is not the same and there are so many people who have real passion for tourism and they do really nice work but it is very likely to get a bad experience in India. I hope we change such things soon.
My God, I had serious problem with food in Europe (Hungary, Austria and Slovakia). It was first time in my life when I went out of India and everything was a huge shock for me including food. I had asked my host, Dora and Attila, several times before leaving India about the food for me and they always told me that there won’t be any problem at all. In fact I was planning to carry some Indian spices with me but when I saw that Attila and Dora were so confident about availability of food me in Hungary then I just decided to leave everything on them. I had no idea what I was going to eat in Europe before I left.
I arrived in Hungary in the evening time around 7. My host took me for a walk and then to a restaurant. I was provided the menu and I looked at it but I just did not know any food at all. I asked my hosts to choose any vegetarian food for me and they told me about a few dishes that there were vegetarian but still I had no idea. So finally I just left everything on them and they ordered something for me. The waitstaff brought the food and it looked very beautifully decorated with fresh leaves. It looked very hygienic and healthy but still I was not getting that feeling of excitement. The look of the meal was not so attractive to make my mouth water.
I think it happened only because of the color and smell of the food. The color of Indian food is usually either red, brown or something bright. You see the gravy, spices, chillies…The only food I think of with its natural color is the plain rice. Whereas my first European food looked very very plain with its natural color. It felt like I was going to eat something raw, uncooked or half cooked. The smell was also so different that it just didn’t feel like food at all. Anyways, I tested it and it had this really super strange taste that only after two bites I exchanged my food with my host’s food but it was also the same.
They sell 1 Samosa for Rs. 75
I tried to eat salad but it was mixed with vinegar and mustard sauce which was again something that I could not eat. Finally I ate a little bit of french fries from my host’s food. Anyways, I finished my dinner with half empty stomach. I didn’t take my first meal very seriously and I had a hope that I would find something the next day. We went for the lunch next day and again I did not have any option at all. I was having more problem because I am a vegetarian. Europeans eat meat all the time, even in their breakfast. You can buy meat just anywhere, even at a supermarket or a grocery store. So you can smell the meat everywhere. And another important thing is that they don’t mix many spices as we do in India so you actually very strange smell of meat. I think the smell was more of the meat whereas in India the smell is mixed of spices and meat.
Kheer for Rs. 100
I don’t mind if anybody is eating meat in front of me but I was having a little bit of problem because of the smell. Anyways, it was not a big issue. My second meal was also something that I could not eat and ended up eating french fries with ketchup. My hosts tried their best to get me some European food that I liked but unfortunately European food was not for me. In fact once they took me to a vegan restaurant but I still did not like their as they also used vinegar, mustard sauce and raw garlic sauce in the food. I was not going to any regular restaurant at all, they were taking me to the best options possible but I could not eat anything.
Finally after my fourth meal at the vegan restaurant I got stomach ache and diarrhea and it happened not because of the quality of the food was bad or something but just because of my stomach and tongue were not liking the food at all and by this time it was just too much. My body just wanted to get rid of the food I had eaten. I did not have any fever and the diarrhea also did not stay long which clearly mean that the quality of food was good but my body didn’t like it at all. My hosts were asking me to just try different options and see if I like anything. They told me if I did not like anything then I just did not need to eat it but I never felt doing it because I did not want to waste their money.
After seeing me struggling with food, my hosts also gave up and they took me to an Indian restaurant called Bombay Express in Budapest. Bombay Express was a huge relief for me. I did not eat anything there but I bought Indian spices. They were selling a lot of Indian products like Lijjat Papad, MDH Kitchen King, Chaat Masala, pickles and several other things that we usually eat in India. I was so happy to have found spices and bought Kitchen King and Chaat Masala because I had kitchen available at my host’s place. We went back home and I cooked my own food which was like finding refrigerated water in the desert of Sahara:) I just took all the vegetables possible at home, cooked them with Kitchen King and ate with rice.
Something really funny happened is that I needed some chillies and asked my hosts if they had any chillies at home. They gave a special kind of chilly called Paprika which is the native chilly of Hungary. They told me that it was so hot and I should not treat it as Indian chilly. But at first I thought that Europeans don’t eat chillies so he just did not have any idea about how much chillies do we use in India. Attila had suggested me to use only one chilly but I used four because I was confident that I would be able to eat it without any problem but I was seriously wrong. The chilly was so hot that mouth was burning when I ate my food:) Paprika had a spark in it which one can easily feel. Anyways, since I was so hungry I just did not care about anything and finished my food. I won’t forget paprika at all.
Menu at Bombay Express
So this is how I survived by cooking my own food at home. And whenever I went out I would either carry my own food or I just ate some french fries with a bottle of beer. But I made sure that I was carrying my both spices – Kitchen King and Chaat Masala along with ketchup. I thought a lot about why I was not able to eat the food my host and other Hungarians were able to eat and I discussed about this issue several times with Attila and Dora also. Sometimes I was so upset that I was kind on angry but then I thought that I was not in Europe to enjoy the food.
Food at Bombay Express
And if I could not eat the food others were able to eat then it was my problem. I work with foreigners from all over the world and I go with them to restaurants and I see them liking Indian food. They always tell that Indian food is very good. The only problem they usually have in India is with the chillies otherwise they appreciate our food but I did not understand I being an Indian and others I know who have been to Europe did not like their food at all. I talked about this food issue with several other people who had been to Europe and they all had same experience like me.
At one moment I thought that it was because Indian food has better taste than European food which now I feel like is not the truth. Europeans and Americans can eat our food and appreciate it only because they have a lot of options available in their country and they grow up eating different kind of food from all over the world. My first guest after I returned to India told me that they cook Indian food every once in week at home in Oxford. And now when I think about other people I meet they also tell me the same thing. They either cook different food or they go to different restaurants where they have got a lot of options.
Whereas in India we usually eat only and only Indian food and even the foreign food we have is cooked with Chaat Masala or something Indian. So their tongue, stomach and mind is opened for different kind of food. They have an idea about how their food would taste like hence they can enjoy the food. But with a person like I just did not have any idea about what I was going to eat. I feel that most of the Indians will have the same problem like me and it is only because of our limited orientation of mind about food. I would like to make a few recommendations for Vegetarian Indians like me who are going to travel in Europe about food-
Try to find an Indian restaurant (But it doesn’t mean that you will find Indian taste because they cook for their people and food taste a bit different. But it could be a huge relief)
Check if there is any option of cooking the food at the hotel.
Carry at least Sabji Masala, Kitchen King, Chaat Masala (for sure) and ketchup. Chaat Masala is ready to eat and you can change the taste of any food and give it an Indian feeling:)
Try to find Corn (Maize). Because you can always find hot water and boil it if nothing is available.
Pizza and Pasta is always a good option because we eat them in India but again their pizza doesn’t taste like the one we have got in India.
French Fries with Beer (Life Saver)
Different kind of breads with cheese, butter, eggs.
If you like coffee then you will love Europe as they have got real coffee and they know how to make it.
If you are going to be in Hungary then don’t play with their Paprika (the red chillies), believe me its seriously hot.
And after all if food really matters a lot, the most important thing for you, then just don’t go to Europe:) haha
I hope this post will help you. Feel free to write me if want to have any suggestions about food in Europe.
Finding any category of visa to any developed nation has always been a huge problem for us Indians. In fact once I had applied for an American tourist visa and it was also denied because they thought that my economical relations with India was not strong enough to prove that I will be coming back after the trip and it happened only 2-3 years ago. This time I got an opportunity to visit Europe. I was invited to Hungary by a friend of mine, Attila, who started an education program for poor kids in Varanasi with my help. Other than Hungary Attila had planned a trip to Slovakia and Austria as well. I did not need to get separate visa for all three different countries because they are all part of Schengen countries and only one visa for Schengen area was enough for me.
I had so many invitation letters sent by my American friends when they wanted to invite me to the US and all of those letters were written on just plain paper but they had provided their residence and income proof with a covering letter stating that they will be taking care of me while I will be in the US but still my visa was denied. Attila did something different. He went to concerned government office in Budapest and wrote an invitation letter through them and sent it to me. The letter looked very professional, it had signature of Attila and some government officer. Other than this it had some basic information about Attila and me also.
I went to Delhi with all the supporting documents, in fact I carried whatever I had. All the certificates, residence proof, income proof and other documents. Now Hungarian embassy also works with VFS for visa document verification which was not the case only until a few months ago. So I went to VFS office instead of Hungarian embassy to apply for my visa. It was kind of confusing place but luckily I found it. The office was located at International Business Center next to Nehru Place metro station. This building had several different VFS offices working for different countries.
For popular destinations they had different rooms but for a place like Hungary, France, Italy, Switzerland they had only different counters in one room. I went to the counter for Hungary and as I was expecting there were not many people in the line because not many people go to Hungary. In fact Hungarian counter was working for France:) Anyways, the staffs were helpful. They checked all of my documents, charged me the visa fee, VFS service fee and that’s all. But they did not have any information about when I will be called for the interview. They just asked me to go back to Varanasi and wait for the phone call.
I asked him to just to give me a clue and said that it was jut not possible at all for him to make any guess. It could take any time up to 15 days. I decided to stay somewhere close to Delhi hence went traveling to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradoon. I was expecting to get a call within next two-three days because Hungarian embassy doesn’t process so many visa applications. But I was not right at all, they called me on the 6th day after applying and asked me to come to the Hungarian embassy a week after which was on the 12 day after applying for visa.
Another interesting thing was that they asked me to bring the evidence of contract which I did not understand. They were asking me to bring photographs of Attila working with me, traveling in India, doing anything…they just wanted to see the proof of my relations with him. I had so many pics so that was not an issue at all. I returned back to Varanasi stayed here for a few days and then went back to Delhi again for interview. I arrived at the embassy on time but the counselor was late by 20 minutes. The counselor was just like the counselor I had met at the American embassy two years ago- she was nothing but a robot.
She would ask me questions and write about it on a piece of paper, then ask another questions, that’s all. She asked me for the pics but did not even look at it. It seemed like she was the busiest person in the world. She just did not want to talk with me. haha. To be honest American counselor was more like trying to read my mind, he was playing with my answer but this lady was only interested in asking questions and writing down my answers. Her questions were very interesting. The best one I liked was if I knew the last name of Attila and his wife. Luckily I knew their last name so it was no problem. After all these questions she showed interest in keeping my original documents for verification.
She took my income tax return document along with tour guide training certificate. She told me that I will be informed once they have made any decision. I got a call by VFS after a week or so that my passport was ready at the VFS center in New Delhi. But I was already in Varanasi by this time so sent an authorization letter to my brother to collect the passport on my behalf. He collected the passport and saw that visa was approved. They issued visa for Schengen countries which meant visa for 26 countries. Nothing was so complicated but I won’t say that anything was easy at all.
I had to go to Delhi at first and then nobody knew how long would it take for interview after applying for visa at the VFS, I was just wandering around here and there spending all of my money, and when they called me for the interview it was after a week. Anyways, I am not really upset with anything but I think such things could be easily avoided if they want. They just need to book an appointment right away for the interview or take maximum of one day because the passport and application is sent the same day to the embassy from VFS office. If they could have informed me the date of the interview even the next day then I would have saved at least Rs. 25,000 which I spent just traveling here and there near to Delhi.