India is known for a lot of things, her diversity, her people, the food she offers, Rakhi Sawant, the flora and fauna. So it’s nice to see the state governments promoting tourism too. It’s high time our rich heritage comprising ancient structures, beautiful landscapes and history come to the forefront and attract more and more visitors. Good tourism means more income, happy country!
But wait! Take a closer look and you will notice that things are just like the time when your distant relatives announce that they are coming to stay with you, and you notice that the house is in a complete mess... clothes strewn all over the place, newspapers piling up in the hall, cobwebs hanging from the wall corners and so on. That’s exactly how we have been treating our tourist attractions... apna hi ghar samjo.
Participating in events like Comic Con keeps me on the move and I personally find the travel part to be the most exciting. I love to click pictures of new places I visit, the food I eat and the people I meet. And every time I decide to go around a new city to explore it, I find myself cringing over what our dear fellow citizens have done to the once beautiful attractions.
I recently was in Goa for a short holiday with my wife. We specifically headed there in the monsoons since that’s the time you don’t have excess tourists crawling around the place. The place was beautiful as the rains had cast their magic. Just as I was admiring the scene, a mound of garbage, dumped in one corner of the beach, came in my line of vision. A few yards further, I saw what the seawaves brought back to us, sarcastically remarking, “Here’s something that belongs to you folks, which you tried to give me...but I don’t want it!” Garbage. Lots and lots of it!
Make a list of places that Indian tourism websites talk about and promote. You are bound to find an empty bottle of beer lying around the greenery or a plastic bottle floating when you go boating in a lake. A visit to an old fort or palace is bound to start off with a familiar sight — ‘Suresh Loves Sarita’. The artistically drawn heart with an aesthetically placed arrow striking right across it... their names written in the highest level of calligraphic precision! Man, if only the ancient folks who built the fort had applied the same amount of attention to detail as Suresh did! Suresh also makes sure he adds a little bit of advertising expertise here. He advertises where he gets the maximum eyeballs! Heck, his Pyaar ka Izhaar might just be awarded the ‘World’s Best Pyaar ka Izhaar’ by Unesco, and that would grace all our WhatsApp forwards soon!
Ironically, it’s not just these tourist attractions that get defaced or dirtied. It’s also the new infrastructure. For instance, the paan stains on newly whitewashed walls! It’s like the paan eating gentlemen get an app notification in their brains the moment they see a newly painted wall, ‘This wall is ready for your rating. Kindly rate it with your paan spit as soon as possible’. And then they all are attracted towards that wall like Nirav Modi to a business class one way ticket out of the country. Spit! Spat! Spoot!
What about the Tejas Express which was inaugurated not so long ago? A comfortable ride was promised to people, with a nice set of on-board comforts and entertainment systems which were vandalised on the first day itself. Someone ripped out seat covers, someone pulled out the TV screens and some broke windows. Why a window? The only explanation I can come up with is that there was a long queue for the bathroom on the train and someone was in a big hurry.
Rants like these don’t guarantee any solution. My guess is as good as yours when it comes to providing a solution to this kind of behaviour we as a nation have adopted. Is it an absolute lack of civic sense? Is it a sign of total rejection of authority? Is it pure arrogance? Maybe it’s an ugly mix of all.
Incredible India sure is looking at strengthening foreign ties, and wants to welcome more people to come and experience the country’s diversity. But will we be able to sweep the empty chips packet under the carpet and smile stupidly? Can Suresh and Sarita make their love an example for the world to see?
(The writer is a comic creator,
illustrator and animator)