The Pareshan Indian Tourist

Cover Sketch by Arpit Gupta

Disclaimer: all in good humor

A Pareshan-Indian-Tourist, or simply Pat, is an integral part of tourism in India. To remove any geographical constraints, I must mention that Pat has also started frequenting foreign destinations. He loves to travel*. He really does. He travels with a pre-set mind while optimizing his money between leisure and necessity. However, he is often unsure about his motives and choice of tourism. With a liking for conventions and trends, he usually prefers to go with the flow. Wherever the crowd goes, he simply follows.

Let me try and describe a Pat to you. Like most people Pat is an amiable, sociable fellow. He never travels alone. Depending on the size of a group, Pats can be seen travelling in a car, a bus or a train coach. Furthermore, Pat believes in theatrics. His presence rarely goes unnoticed. In fact, he makes sure that it doesn’t. The loquacious Mr. Pat achieves this goal with his distance-sensitive vocal cords. The farther the listener, the louder the speaker. But mind you, this sensitivity is not localized to group chit-chat. Even telephonic conversations are prone to this. So whichever place you visit,  the clamour of gratuitous small talk, the customary GPS-coordinate reporting over mobile-phones (“Hum _ (yahan) se bol rahe hain”) and the music of crying babies blends into a background score.

Owing to his affinity for theatrics, Pat participates in elaborate good-bye and welcoming rituals. When a group of Pats begin or end their journey, they are usually accompanied by a larger group of wannabe Pats. There you have it, one of the sources for all the commotion at airports, bus terminals and railway stations.

Aloof to the benefits of globalization, Pat holds a high priority for shopping. To put it in context, shopping enlists as a bullet point in all of Pat’s itineraries. The legacy of the esoteric Pats back at home demand that gifts and presents be bestowed upon them after the completion of Mr. Pat’s journey. So Mr. Pat must shop. Shopping begins with associating gift items with their potential recipients (who-gets-what). This is followed by weighing the items’ cost against prejudices (who-gets-how-expensive). After a few more intermediate steps and routine bargaining, the ritual ends. Clearly, this untangling of complexities necessitates time. Hence the insistence on enlisting shopping in the itinerary.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I must mention an aphorism: often it’s the little things of life which count and contribute to happiness. Mr. Pat knows this all too well. He adheres to this maxim in all aspects of his life but most noticeably while seeking a paid service. It’s the enunciation of “thoda aur” which quenches his thirst for “paisa-wasool”. In this process, he often ignores the possibility of having caused any time-delays or inconvenience to others. He prefers turning a blind eye. His expertise in turning a blind eye is evidenced at other occasions as well. It is this selective and astute faculty of seeing which inspires him to flout with a carefree demeanor. For instance, this allows him to unsee the part of first-come in first-come-first-served when he authoritatively jumps a queue.

One shouldn’t mistake his selective vision for not being sharp-eyed. He gets impatient when systems aren’t in order. He is well informed that it’s all Government’s fault (even expats (ex-Pats?) are skilled in blame-the-Indian-government game!). Be it the time-delays, the litter, or anything wrong, it’s the Government’s fault. It always is.

Circumspect by nature, he is baffled when faced with choices. Risk unsettles him. He is so averse to the idea of risk that a high-point of tourism for our home-sick Pats is when he gets to eat his native cuisine on a foreign land. He doesn’t like elaborate menus (choices!). This is also why Mr. Pat prefers to travel by the book. Deviation from regular itineraries causes him discomfort. Travel expeditions of different Pats are therefore identical in most aspects and can be seen as products of the same assembly line (Hill stations – mall road, view points, Goa – beaches, alcohol, Agra – Taj Mahal, Agra fort, Pethe etc.). This leaves Pats with no choice but to encapsulate their notions of a successful trip in the concept of “paisa-wasool”. Pats like to discuss and compare amongst themselves, all the excitements of their triumphant “paisa-wasool” travel explorations. The gleeful proclamation of “humne toh itne din mein/itne paise mein _ (yeh sab) kiya” soothes their soul.

Amidst all this “pareshani” Pat finds his happiness. And his travel endeavours continue to thrive.

*Yes, fellow nitpickers, it’s a “He”. He/she/it/they…literary convenience

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