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.

Arranged marriage of cousin

It was my cousin’s wedding on the 12th of December and I was so excited for it but fortunately I could not attend it as I had to be Gwalior for my written exam and interview for tour guide training. The wedding was on the 12th and it was my exam on the 13th, the party was on the 16th and it was my iterview day in Gwalior so I could not attend either of them. I tell it fortunately because something really crazy went on the wedding and now I feel fortunate that I did not get to attend the wedding or party.

My cousin used to work at a travel agency in Delhi and he is 30 years old and wanted to get married.He wanted his parents to find a girl for him. One of my uncles had a relative in Benares who was looking for a boy for his daughter so my uncle became the midiator and arranged this wedding. The wedding was arranged in May and date for wedding was fixed for December. My cousin used to talk with the girl over phone, he came to meet her in Benares but they met secretly as girl’s father did not want them to meet before getting married. Anyways, they met, talked and they liked each other.

My cousin used to talk about how happy he was with the girl. Even he left his job in Delhi and came to Benares and joined a travel agency so that he could stay in Benares with his wife becasue Benares is cheaper than Delhi. The girl’s father was seriously a crazy guy. He came to my father a few days before wedding and said that he wanted to get my cousin’s horoscope rechecked by some big Bramhin. He said that his family priest had told him that horoscope of my cousin doesnt match with horoscope of his daughter.

Actually everyone’s horoscope talks about 32 different qualities of one’s life and when somebody gets married, the horoscope of bride and groom is matched and is looked how many qualities match. If less than 16 qualities match, the wedding is canceled. The girl’s father said that my cousin was a Mangla means my cousin had some problem with his Mars. The girl’s father wanted to see if his daughter, his grand child and his grand child’s child will be happy or not if he gets his daughter married with my cousin, serious craziness.

Finally the horoscope was rechecked and they decided that wedding be done on the same date. All these things happened only a few days before the wedding. All of my relatives gathered together for wedding and everything was going very well. On the wedding day, when wedding parade arrived at the bride’s place, they heard few people fighting and shouting. They came to know that the bride did not want to marry with my cousin as she was already in love with someone else. Her boyfriend was also there with a advocate and he came to my cousin and said that he wanted to marry the girl.

The girl also left her place before a few minutes of wedding parade was going to arrive at her place and went to her neighbor’s house who was supporting her. She did not want to get married with my cousin. Her father with few other people went to the neighbor’s place and brought her back to the house. She was crying and was shouting that she wanted to marry her boy friend. Everybody from groom’s side heard her saying it and they went to the groom and told him the situation and asked him what was his decision. And I just don’t understand why my cousin said that he still wanted to marry her.

The girl’s family beat the boyfriend and his uncle who was in support of thier wedding and locked them up in a room for the whole night and finally the girl was forcebly married to my cousin. The wedding rituals were done quickly and the bride was brought forcebly to groom’s place. The bride told everything again to my cousin and asked him to help her meet her boyfriend but my cousin said that she should not do such things as she is married to him now. It is hard for me to understand why my cousin married her even after knowing everything but I think he was in dipression.

He would often talk about his age and would tell me that after a few years nobody would marry him. I am sure this is not the case anymore in India but my dipressed cousin… I don’t understand a few things like why the girl did not tell anything about her boyfriend to my cousin before marriage and why did they wait till the wedding date? I don’t really know who is responsible for the whole situation. I have heard that bride’s family knew everything but the father of the bride did not like bride’s boyfriend.

Arranged marriage is still very popular in India but now I hear of more people coming against this idea. The concept of arranged marriage is not a problem to me also as long as the couple is happy but when such things happen like what happened with my cousin’s wedding then it really makes me angry. I just don’t know how someone can do this? I don’t know if I should want my couisn and his wife to live together or get seperated but one thing is very sure that if the girl does something like eloping with her boyfriend, it would be a huge problem for my cousin and his family.

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.

Entrance Exam for Tour Guide Training Program

India is going to host commonwealth games in 2010 and Indian Government wants to prepare 1000 tour guides for that event. I had also applied to get a tour guide license for North India last year in November. I was supposed to participate in a written exam and if I qualify that then a interview and if I pass the interview then 3 months training which includes classes and a tour of monuments with a professor. I was told that the exam will be held in February but it took almost 9 months.

Finally after waiting for a long time I got a admit card to participate in tour guide exam. But there was again some problem, they sent me admit card with a letter, right before one week of the exam, saying to submit domicile certificate issued by court within next one week in Gwalior which was impossible. Because if I apply for domicile certificate then court needs more than a week to issue it. I contacted tourism office but they said that it was not their fault but postage department’s fault. They said that they had posted the letter one month ago but postage department was late delivering it.

I contacted my advocate but he also seemed helpless to me because there was strike of advocates going on in Benares. By the way I gave all the documents to my advocate to see if he could get me a domicile certificate. I waited for 3 days but advocates were still on strike and it started seeming to me that I would not be able to participate in the exam. Then I contacted my brother’s friend who was already doing training in the same institute where I was supposed to submit the documents.

He said that there will be no problem if I bring my passport or some other residential proof. He said that Government was not hoping for more than 20,000 applicants but more than 50,000 applicants had applied that is why they sent that letter to everyone, just to cut down the number of applicants. I contacted Institute again asking if it was possible to submit some other residential proof instead of domicile certificate and again the said No.

Finally I decided to go to Gwalior with the documents and newspaper cutting that said about strike of advocates in Benares. I reached Gwalior, met my brother’s friend and we went to the institute. First they were not agree to except my documents but after a big argument the took my ration card, voter id card and driving license. I was still not sure if I would be able to participate in the exam which was after a week. I came back to Delhi to my brother’s home and stayed there for one week.

Finally It was my exam date and my exam center was in Delhi. I went there with my brother’s wife who had also applied for the same exam. I was a bit worried seeing the applicants list but wow! it worked, I saw my name in the list, it was a big relief for me. I gave the exam, questions were quiet easy than I was expecting. I had thought that exam would be very tough but there was nothing like that. I saw few students in my class room asking answers to other students, I had never hoped for that.