Hindu at Taj Mahal’s Namaz

I have always been interested in different religions, particularly in Islam and finally I got an opportunity to learn something about it. I shared the apartment with a Muslim guy named Sana in Gwalior during my tour guide training and now we are very good friends. We shared the apartment for 6 weeks in Gwalior and then traveled together for next one week in Jaipur and Agra and I stayed at his apartment in Delhi. I had always wanted to learn about Namaz (the prayer to Allah). I was in Agra on Id and I was staying with Sana, his friend Khesal and Prem. We were staying at hardly five minutes walk from Taj Mahal.

Sana is a different kind of Muslim. I remember him once telling that he was an atheist whereas Khesal was really strict Muslim. He used to go for Namaz by leaving the class during training period. Sana was open for everything, even for drinking which is completely prohibited in Islam. It was Id day and Sana and Khesal both wanted to go for Namaz at Taj Mahal. Id is a day when entry is free to Taj Mahal so they decided to go to Taj Mahal for Namaz. I also asked Sana and Khesal to take me with them. Sana was open for it but Khesal seemed a bit concerned taking me to a mosque.I had already talked about Namaz with Khesal on the night before to Id and I had some idea about how it would be like and I was so excited for it but I was a bit scared also at the same time.

I did not want somebody to stop me and tell to leave the mosque because I was a Hindu. I talked about it with Sana and he said everything would be fine if I follow his instructions. He asked me to hide the red thread I had over my wrist and asked me to take care of my Janeu so that nobody could see it. I was excited for the Namaz but I was feeling a bit scared. I asked my friend Prem to come with us to the Namaz and he seemed okay at first but later he said that he did not want to come with us. He was also a kind of Hindu who did not know Hinduism well because Hinduism teaches to respect all the religions. Well, I went to the Taj Mahal for Namaz with Sana and Prem.

I bought a handkerchief to cover my head and was pretending to be a familiar guy to Islam. I think there were at least twenty to thirty thousand people at Taj Mahal for Namaz and I am sure that I was only Hindu there, and worst thing about me was that I was a Bramhin. Finally the Namaz was started and now I was seriously concerned about me doing anything stupid. Sana had already taught me basics of Namaz and I was just looking at other people around me with my half opened eyes but still I made a mistake but fortunately Sana saw me making this mistake and stopped me from doing so. Sana had told me that people repeat Ayats of Kuran during the Namaz but I did not know anything so I started repeating the Gayatri Mantra and somehow I was able to complete the Namaz without anybody letting know that I was a Bramhin doing Namaz there.

I was so happy to have completed the Namaz. Sana had told me that the people who do Namaz regularly never get any joint pains because they have to sit and stand up several times and now I seriously believe it. I think I had to sit down, band my whole body and put my head on the ground and then stand up for at least five times and the right way to perform Namaz is to perform it five times a day. So I am sure that if anybody is performing Namaz for five times a day, he would never get any joint pains and it is a very good physical exercise. After performing the Namaz, I went in the Muslim neighborhood right behind the Taj and saw Muslism celebrating the festival. It was really a nice experience performing the Namaz and I would really love to learn it properly and would love to whenever I get anyone like Sana who secures my safety and take cares of me.

Finally received tour guide license

I, receiving the certificate

I, receiving the certificate

I finally got my tour guide license on the 30th after three years of wait because I had applied for it in the year 2006. I started preparing for the entrance exam after applying for the license in 2006 and continued it for a few months but finally I stopped because the tour guide association of India sued the Indian government for issuing the license. They never want new people to come in the industry as they are afraid of loosing their bread and butter because most the old guides are not good. They got their license when it was so easy to get it. Now the process is tough but it will definitelyproduce better tour guides who are at least trained to not chew betel while talking with their clients:)

The certificate

The certificate

My brother Chandan, who is an escort, told me something really funny. He said that when he was in Benares last time with his group, he had hired a government approved tour guide who went with them for morning time boat ride. This tour guide started talking about Benares, Hindu religion, Benares culture and Ganga. He said several times that Ganga is not only a river for Hindus, she is considered as mother. After a few minutes when his speech ended, he started chewing betel and later spited it out in the river Ganga in front of his clients. The clients got really upset and they asked him if Hindus spit on their mother and he just did not have any answer. I hope the people who have attended this training program will not do such thing.

Sana and I at convocation hall

Sana and I at convocation hall

The tour guide training program was stopped several times because the tour guide association of India was alwayssuing the government. They sued the government first time right after the application forms were open and then it took few months to settle things, and then government organized entrance exam and then again tour guide association sued the government and the program was stopped again for a few months as the case was going on in Delhi High Court. Finally the government won the case and High Court of Delhi ordered the government to start the training as soon as possible so finally training was started after 3 years in August 2009.

Happy moment

Happy moments

The training was held at IITTM in Gwalior where I got to learn a lot. The total duration of training was 16 weeks- 6 weeks of classroom teaching and 10 weeks for field work. There were over 75 lectures in 6 weeks and I did wrote my research paper on Benares. I focused on cultural diversity of Benares. There was a written exam and an interview at the end of the program and I passed both and finally got the certificate. Now I have to go to Delhi to India tourism office with a police verification certificate and then they will issue me a provisional license which will be valid only for two months. And after two months my red card (the permanent license) will be issued. I hope they will not create any problem in Delhi.

Guide training program – week 7

The seventh week of the guide training program is done which was the orientation tour of Agra>Jaipur>Delhi. Our first city was Agra where we visited four monuments- Taj Mahal, Red fort, Sikandara (Tomb of Akbar the Great) and Itmad Ud Daula. We had one guide for fifty participants. Agra was a crazy city. The water there was so sour. We were suggested by our institute to use only bottled water. There were touts everywhere trying to sell something all the time to everyone near the monuments. We were brought to a few tourist shops also. Those shops were huge, literally huge.

The shops in Agra, Jaipur and Delhi had arranged our breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a good opportunity for them to bring two-hundred tour guides all together to their shop at one time. They showed us around their shop, explained us how do they work and gave some gifts also to all the participants. I am sure it was a good deal for them. But the shops were so expensive. All the stuffs in those shops were at least ten times more expensive than the normal market rate but the quality of the product was also very nice.

We visited four monuments in Jaipur as well- Jaigarh Fort, Amber Fort, City Palace and Jantar Mantar. The condition of water in Jaipur was exactly same as the water of Agra. I liked all the monuments but City Palace. The City Palace was a very very commercial place. They had opened only a small part of the palace for the visitors. If somebody wants to visit other part, which is not open for visitors, they can do it by paying extra money and this extra money is decided by looking at the visitor’s profile. The City Palace doesn’t accept tour guide licenses given by the government of India; they issue their own license.

If somebody wants to have that license, then they will have to pass an exam organized by the City Palace. If a government approved tour guide goes to City Palace to do the guiding, then either he hires a City Palace guide or he pays some money to the City Palace. Our guide in Jaipur told us that City Palace is open for all kinds of activity. If someone wants to celebrate their birthday in the palace, they can do it by paying some money to the king. If somebody wants to hire the king and have him welcome the guests, it is possible by paying him.

After Jaipur we headed to Delhi which was crazy as usual. I heard something really crazy that TGFI (Tour Guide Federation of India) had instructed all the tour guides to not train us during our orientation tour of Delhi and that is why our institute had a hard time getting a guide to give us tour and train us. None of the guides in Delhi agreed to work with us. Finally the institute had to hire a monument guide. It was crazy to see how opposed TGFI was. They are the people who had sued the government against this training program but when they saw nothing happening in their favor, they did this crazy protest.

The shops of Delhi were also not so helpful as the shops of Jaipur and Agra. Even though our lunch, dinner and breakfast were organized by the shopkeepers in Delhi but the experience was not as good as the Jaipur and Agra one. My overall experience was nice but I did not learn much during the tour because there was only one guide for fifty participants but it was okay. I know that I will not start working somewhere out of Varanasi right after getting the license because I want to study first. I will start working in Benares first, then study about other cities, maybe go there and hire a guide and then work in other cities.

Guide training program – week 6

Finally the last week of classroom teaching is finished now. This week we had classes about Jaipur, Indo-Islamic architecture, things to do during any emergency, gems and jewellery, Jainism, business history of India and a few classes about the project report and upcoming tour. All the classes of this week were fine but I like the “things to do in any emergency” class the best. The lecture was delivered by a retired air hostess of Air India. She taught us about what we should do during any emergency but the thing that made her class best was her openness and her topic that no lecturer had ever talked about during the training.

She talked about medical problems, sex, homosexuality, HIV, AIDS and other STIs. She taught us what we should do if any tourist asks us to have sex with them. She said that first of all it completely depends on us whether we want to have sex with the tourist or or not, but if we decide to have sex with the tourist then we should never forget to use condoms because there is high risk of STI transmission by having unprotected sex. She seemed so concerned about HIV and AIDS. She said that since she had worked in the service sector, she had sex with several different kinds of people but she always used condoms.

She talked about homosexuality as well. She taught us the basics about homosexuality. I already knew about what she was talking about, but it was a completely new subject to most of the participants. She said that if any of the participants were homosexual, then they should not be shy about it and talk with their parents and live a life as they want. She talked about the high court judgment as well. She said that now there is someone to support homosexuals in India. She said that homosexuality is seen as a disease in India. Most of the parents think that if they get their homosexual child married with an opposite sex partner, the disease will go away which is obviously not true.

I just could not believe her openness about the subject. All of the participants of my batch were males and she was the only female amongst us but she talked about sex which doesn’t happen in India usually. Everybody enjoyed the lecture a lot. On the last day of this week when all the participants were called together in the auditorium of the institute we were provided a certificate of participation. This certificate will help us talking with the government officials for our project. The female participants were called separately on the stage to motivate them. The institute said that Indian tourism industry needs female tour guides in India and we should promote them.

Guide training program – week 5

I have passed five weeks in Gwalior doing the training, now just one more week of classroom teaching to go in Gwalior and then we will go for the tour. This week was also very interesting. We had classes about Indian Buddhism, Indian archeology & rock painting, conservation, Kailash Mansarovar, Ayurveda, Taj Mahal, Indian classical music, vocal and dance, virtual reality in tourism, travel legislation and there was one class about our project report. The class about Indian Buddhism and Taj Mahal was the best one and the class about conservation and Indian classical music, vocal and dance was the worst one of the week.

The lecturer delivering lecture about conservation was too fast. He spoke continuously for two hours, it was crazy. No time for anything else. He would just change the slide and start speaking about it, and then again change the slide and speak about it. He did not want anyone to go to washroom during the class. He asked us to use the washroom before the class was started and then asked us to lock the door of the class. The class about Indian classical music, vocal and dance was also not interesting. The performance was good, actually it was entertaining because they played instruments before us and performed a dance but the lecture was again terrible.

They were trying to teach us things that were impossible for a beginner to understand. They taught us little about the basics, and then started teaching us about different ragas which are impossible to understand for a person who doesn’t know much about Indian classical music. The class about Indian Buddhism was one of the best classes I have ever had during the training. The lecturer was a professor of Buddhism at Delhi University and was supposed to talk about Indian Buddhism but he did not talk about Indian Buddhism much. He said that he had traveled over 80 countries and had been to Mansarovar 7 times.

He started his lecture with Indian Buddhism but switched soon to the present politics, religion, politics in the past… He was more interested in teaching us about how life in India is good, why politicians are corrupt and how we discriminate and why we should not discriminate anyone on the basis of their country, state, sex or religion. It was really a nice lecture, we laughed most of the time and enjoyed it a lot. He told us really interesting things like over 40% of the heart attacks take place on Monday in the US and Canada because of too much work pressure.

Our program for the tour is also decided now. The classroom teaching at Gwalior center will finish on the 18th and the practical training in Agra will start on the morning of the 19th so we are taking a train on the evening of the 18th. The participants will have to arrange their own lodging and fooding, the institute will arrange five coaches to take us around and they will invite experts to train us. Our training in Agra is on the 19th and 20th, 21st is off.
The training in Jaipur is on the 22nd and 23rd, 24th is off and then our final training will take place in Delhi on the 25th and 26th.

Guide training program – week 4

Nandan in Bramhi (the oldest script)

Nandan in Bramhi (the oldest script)

The fourth week of the training is completed now so only two weeks to go and then I will head for the one week of tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and then finally to Benares for my field work. This week was also very interesting as we had a few very nice lecturers and very interesting lectures about the travel industry in India, Indian art, Varanasi, temples, Indo-Islamic architecture, cultural difference, epigraphy and numismatics, temples of Bateshwar, Indian classical music and tourism in Himanchal Pradesh but I liked the epigraphy and numismatics, temples of Bateshwar and tourism in Himanchal Pradesh lectures best.

Picture2

Bateshwar before conservation

The lecture about Indian classical music was crazy. Nobody understood anything. The professor wanted us to sing. He was so similar to the professor who delivered the lecture about astrology last week. Astrology and Indian classical music, both subjects are kind of unknown to the participants. We know about them but we don’t have good knowledge about them and it would have been better if they would have taught us about the basics of these subjects but their lecture was for someone who already had at least basic knowledge of these subjects.

see the change

see the change

Mr. Mohammad K K, the lecturer who taught us about temples of Bateshwar was amazing. He is Superintendent Archaeologist of ASI. He showed us a slide show of his work in Muraina, MP. He said that Muraina had a group of over 200 temples but they were all destroyed during an earthquake about 1300 years ago. So these temples were underground for over a thousand year but nobody ever thought about them. This whole area was captured by really dangerous naxalites. They used to live in those temples so nobody ever dared to go there. Mr. Mohammad K K and other officers of ASI went there by taking help of the locals and met naxalites.

Naxalites also permitted them to work on the temples. They excavated that area and were shocked to see what appeared in front of them. The temples were completely broken. They collected all the materials and started reconstruction. They used the same material and built the temples again. They had to use new materials as well sometimes but most of the material is taken from the same place. It is hard to imagine how they did it. This presentation had not much to do with tour guiding profession because no tourist would go there in near future but I loved it. I loved the dedication of Mr. Mohammad K K towards his job. It was awesome.

The lecturer who taught us about Indo-Islamic architecture was an expert from ASI. He told something really strange. He said that foreign escorts who come to India with foreign tourist groups must be banned at the monuments. He asked all the candidates to write a letter to the Prime Minister of India demanding prohibition of foreign escorts at Indian monuments. I did not know anything about it so I asked my friends about it and they said that foreign escorts come to monuments, take a local guide but after the site seeing they pay to the local guide and that’s all.

Whatever they told me about the foreign escorts sounded fine to me so I asked them what was the problem and they said that the foreign escorts do not bring them with the group to the shops so no commission for them. It sounded like a genuine issue to me because a very important part of the tourism is to help the local community economically and the rate decided by the government for guides is not enough to support their livelihood, so they depend on the commission and tip given by the clients.

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

Gwalior for tour guide training

I went to Gwalior on the 27th to get counseling for the tour guide training program. I reached Gwalior at 10.30 AM as my train was delayed by 2 hours. Counseling was to start at 3pm so I had almost 4 hours to visit the city. I had already heard about Gwalior fort so I took an auto and reached it at about 11.00pm. Gwalior fort was huge, I had already been to a few forts but I had never seen any fort like this one. It was situated 300 feet up on a hill. There was an inclined road starting at the entrance gate to reach at the fort.

Gwalior Fort

I think the road was almost 2 kilometers long. There was a beautiful Mansingh Palace, Sas-Bahu Temple, Sikh gurudvara and a Teli temple. Since I had 3 hours left when I reached there, I thought that I would be able to visit the whole fort, but I was wrong. This fort was huge and I could not visit all the places inside it. I was looking for a guide book or some information about the fort but there was no assistance for tourists. There was a ticket counter at the entrance gate where it was written that ticket costs only twenty paise. We stopped using twenty paise coin about seven-eight years ago, so it seems like they have not updated anything since then. There was only one coffee shop in this whole campus.

They organize a sound and light show every evening that I really wanted to attend but I could not because I did not have enough time. I liked Sas-Bahu temple a lot. There were lots of carvings on the walls of it. I was amazed to see those carvings which were made about 500 years ago. I saw a lot of Sikhs in Gwalior. There was a group of young Sikh guys inside the fort who came to me and asked to take their photo. After taking the photo, the youngest guy, only thirteen- fourteen years old, came to me and said that I must begin waking up early in the morning. I was shocked to see that how he knew that I don’t sleep in the nights and wake up so late.

Then he said that my friends are not good, they never feed me and always look to get fed by me (Hindi expression when somebody wants to loot you). As I heard this, I immediately realized that he was also a looter. He was also telling the same story that all the looter astrologers say. Then he asked me for money, he wanted fifty rupees. I said I don’t want to pay him, then he asked for twenty five, then ten, five and finally he wanted only two rupees but I didn’t give him any money. He was a young crazy looter person.

After Sas-Bahu temple I moved to Man Singh Palace which was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the year 1508. Later Mughals won this palace and used it as a Sahi Jail (sounds like a jail for important people like kings). This was the only palace I had ever seen that had colored tiles on the wall of it, it was beautiful. A few people met me asking if I would like to have a guide but I did not take them as I had only thirty minutes left but now I think it was worth taking them. This palace was very confusing like Bada Imambada of Lucknow. Finally my time was over and I had to leave for the counseling place.

As I reached at the Institute, I saw a lot of people over thirty five years old and a few of them were over 50. I thought they were parents of the students but I was wrong, they were they guys who had qualified the exam. A few people told me that these old guys have been working in the tourist sector for years. I think they did not need to go through any training because they were already working in this sector for years. But they are often stopped by government guides and ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) officers at monuments, therefore they also wanted a license.

The institute was very nice, very fancy. It had a computer lab, library, auditorium and a lush green apartment. All the rooms and auditorium were air conditioned. The counseling was divided in two parts- document verification and registration. The registration process was going on in auditorium but I had to get my documents verified first in a different room. There were three employees of the institute checking all the documents of the students. I had to show them attested Xerox copies of all the certificates along with the original one.

After completing this process, they gave me a form where I had to write my name, roll number, marks obtained in the exam, choice of batch, and center. They told me to fill up that form, and go to the counseling hall. I wanted to get training at the New Delhi center in the second batch but there were only thirty seats for New Delhi center, which were already taken by other students. So, I got selected for the second batch training at the Gwalior center. They charged Rs. 2000 as a training fee which includes library, computer lab and teaching fee as well.

My training will start on the 5th of January and will last for 45 days. After this period there will be a one week tour. After that I will be given a city or a tourist region and I will have to write a report about the history and monument situated in that city. I will get ten weeks to complete the report. After writing the report they will organize an exam and the students who qualify on that exam will go through an interview. After passing the interview, the tour guide license will be issued.

It was 5o’ clock now and my train to go back Benares was at 8:40 so I left the Institute and walked to the Railway station. The Railway station was about 5 kilometers away from the institute but I decided to go on foot so that I could see the city. Gwalior seemed like nice city; obviously it was not as big as Benares but it was much more organized. The traffic was nicer than Benares; housing seemed better; there were gardens; trees; I think it was more like other big cities of India. Benares is completely different from Gwalior.

I met a Benares guy on the train who had also qualified on the exam. He has been working as an escort with Japanese tourists for the past 2-3 years, but he was not happy working with he said that Japanese don’t give money. But now he was so happy that he will get a license, and he said that he will not work with Japanese people anymore. He wanted to work with either American, British or some other rich country’s people. He said that Spanish are also like Japanese people, dont want to give money.

Spain is the eighth largest economy of the world and the fifth largest of Europe, and they sound like nice people. Japan is also a very rich country but he didn’t like either of them. He said that over 75% of Japanese- speaking government guides in Delhi can’t read or write Japanese. They learnt language by speaking only and later they qualified on the exam, which happens only in English. But it will not be possible by next time, because next time exams will be conducted in different languages for different language speaking people.

It was a short but very busy and successful trip. I completed the counseling process, I visited Gwalior fort, and I took a walk in city. It was nice, so I think I will enjoy my time in Gwalior during the training period.