Prabhu’s death and superstition

My friend Prabhu died last month because of colon cancer. His death did some serious damage to my life as he was one of my best friends. He was already up anything and everything. I really miss him a lot. I was talking about his death with my two friends- Babu and Rahul. Babu is a graduate in science and Rahul is graduate in arts. Babu was preparing to study in London to both of them are educated and have lived in the city for their whole lives. All of my friends and everyone else who knew Prabhu, knew that he died of colon cancer but Rahul and Babu told me something that shocked me.

They said that one of the biggest reasons of Prabhu’s death was his motorbike which he had bought an year ago. They said that Prabhu’s Saturn was not supporting him and buying anything made of iron is really dangerous for someone whose Saturn is not happy with them. They said that Prabhu made four mistakes: he bought a motorbike, he bought his bike on Saturday, he chose black color for his motorbike and he did not let others drive it. According to Babu and Rahul black color is anti-Saturn color so buying a black motorbike was a serious mistake done by Prabhu.

Prabhu was in love with his motorbike and would not give it to others, not even to his family members and Rahul and Babu think that if he would have given his bike to other people, then it would have decreased the bad affect of Saturn and he would have been able to fight with colon cancer. After hearing this crazy idea I was wondering what could be worse idea than this about such a disease which we really ne to understand. India is changing, our food is changing, life style is changing and I know that such diseases like cancer is going to increase a lot in India and we really need to know what it is but relating cancer to the motorbike?

I often hear about how people mix animal fat with oil and butter, how old potatoes are washed with acid to give them a new look or just how more people eat meat products and I am sure none of these things are good for health. Prabhu’s doctors said that he got cancer because of too much deep friend and spicy food. Prabhu also told me once that he did not eat his luch within past seven years. He had a Kachaudi (deep fried food) shop and he used eat 10-12 Kachaudis with really spicy vegetables every morning and then did not eat anything for the whole day.

Prabhu admitted that he used to use burnt oil to prepare Kachaudi. He ate this crazy food continuously for seven years. His dinner was also usually roti with spicy vegetables. He had hardly eaten lentils for 10-15 times within past seven years. He had serious constipation problem for years but he never saw a doctor for this problem. He used to chew betel and tobacco a lot and I think all these things caused him colon cancer not his black motorbike which he bought on Saturday and would not let others drive it. Sometimes I feel like India is changing because of its young blood but when I see people like Rahul and Babu, it seems like it will still take years for this young Indian blood to be purified and pure that will create a healthy India with healthy mind.

Ghosts haunting the neighbors

There is a Yadav family lives next door. There are six members in the family- three girls, their parents and grandma but none of them work. Grandma is a retired nurse and gets pension and they have rented a few rooms in their house which is the source of income for them. I don’t think that their monthly earning is more than Rs. 13,000 which is kind of sufficient to survive for a family of six members in Benares if they live very simple life but this family is always in trouble because they spend most of their money on exorcists.

They believe that their whole family is affected by ghosts. The biggest problem is that grandma, who used to be a nurse at BHU, also believes that her house and family is affected by ghosts. The mother of the kids has gastric problems and she burps like crazy all the time. Her burps are extremely loud that I can hear even in my home. I am sure that she has serious problem and she gets stomach ache also all the time and sometimes she feels like her whole body is burning from inside. But the whole family says that this problem is caused by ghosts.

The sound of her burp is said to be sound of the ghosts and the stomach ache and burn inside her body is also believed to be caused by ghosts. They say that the ghosts attack her every evening and in night times. The grandma was talking about it with my father and my father advised her to take the patient to a doctor but this grandma was telling that she had already contacted several doctors but her daughter never got any relief. She was trying to say all the time that doctors are not the one who can do something, only and only exorcists can help her.

She asked my father if he knew any good exorcists but my father suggested her few doctors but she did not want to hear anything. She was telling my father that he should come and see her daughter when she is on. She was telling that her daughter starts screaming like crazy when the ghost attacks her. She said that somebody has sent the ghost to kill her daughter and her whole family and the ghost will not go away until he kills everyone.

I have also heard some strnage noise coming out of that house. I seen strange people coming to her home and doing strange pujas. A few months ago they had rapped a thread all around their house, and then I saw a big bamboo on the roof. Every evening they burn something smoke their whole house and then start coughing like hell. Smoke is done by the husband of the patient and when he does it all other members of the family go inside the rooms and don’t come out thinking that the smoke would kick the ghost out of their home and if they are seen by the ghost, the ghosts will kill them.

Sometimes I hear them shouting in the night – look he is coming, kick him out, why do you live here etc. and other family members shout go to hell, what are you doing here, who has sent you, why do you want to kill us… Its crazy. They always want to meet a new exorcist. I heard them talking with a person who was suggesting them to go to a tomb near Lucknow. This exorcist was saying that whoever have been there, got rid of their ghosts. He was telling that puja for a ghost at the tomb is not expensive, it is only Rs. 15,000 for the whole family.

Rs. 15,000 is still something and how someone can spend that much money for ghosts? I know that Hinduism believes in ghosts but at the sametime we super cheap and convenient way to get rid off them, if you don’t like them. The word “Ram” is believed to be mahamantra (huge mantra) and it is said that one can get rid off all kinds of crazy ghosts, demons, evil or any bad spirit only by repeating the name of Ram. If don’t want to believe that there are ghosts around me but if I would have do something to get rid of ghosts, I would choose this super convinient way of repeating name of Ram.

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.


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 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.