Learn to be a tourist

I am an Indian and I am proud to be an Indian, the reason i’m posting this as the first line is because the rest of this blog post is a rant. Sorry. OK. Please.

I’ve never gone sightseeing alone, in fact if I don’t find someone to hang out with I just end up sleeping in my hotel room when I am traveling. As of writing this I have spent 15 days in London, although I came here for ‘Business Meetings’ I did explore quite a bit and it was all alone! New experiences, few parts I liked and others I did not. Part of this new experience was to do guided tours, I wasn’t sure i’d do anything unless I went on one of those tours where a shepherd guides sheep from all over the world. So rant begins, Indians, we love to tell everyone that we know more than them! We love talking when we aren’t supposed to and of course we don’t know that keeping quiet when the guide is speaking is something one should always follow. What is worse than one Indian you ask? Two, yes two Indians babbling around like the winner would get candy from mommy. I’ve two experiences to share, one was at the ‘Home of Cricket’ Lord’s cricket ground and the other during a trip to Stonehenge.

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Lord’s, the mecca of cricket, the one place that will give every cricket fan goosebumps! Here we are the early birds roaming around in the museum, waiting for our guide to show up at 10 am and holler at us. In a group of twenty people here, there were six Indians, me included. There was an Indian family featuring two women, an over enthusiastic kid and the dad of said kid, the first hero of our story and another Indian dude, hero number two, who was there alone and I can only imagine why. The two heroes make eye contact and chaos was sure to follow! The guide shows up at exactly 10 and says, ladies and gentlemen please gather around, don’t be shy, lets begin the tour! The guide looks around and asks who is from India, sure enough the two heroes tried to be louder than each other and screamed here! Hero number one, lets call him Ram, shouts Virat Kohli, why you ask? I’ve got no answer! So hero number two, lets call him Shyam, shouts Sachin Tendulkar. No answers yet, the guide as confused as the rest of the crowd. The kid at this point is thinking about running away or at least trying to disown his dad. 1 Australian, 5 South Africans later we started the tour! The guide shows us the original urn that gave ‘The Ashes’ its name, and here we have Ram giving his son a private lesson that is unfortunately heard by Shyam who decided to chime in and now the rest of the tour group is trying to hear the guide. The story behind the ashes finally takes center stage and everyone is hearing it with utmost interest. You’d think these over enthusiastic Ram and Shyam know a thing or two about cricket, lo behold, they don’t have the slightest knowledge. They kinda reminded me of some of my under grad teachers who had no clue about any of the subjects they taught but still spoke out with confidence. Ram asks the guide why the Ashes are never in India, at this point i’m searching for cyanide because i’m done with life, Shyam laughs out loud! He then proceeds to say that the Ashes happens once in 3 years, I am tempted at this point to correct Shyam but you know what fuck it, the guide will do it, he does thankfully. As for Ram’s question about why the Ashes isn’t in India, each pairs of countries have a different name for the trophy they fight for when they play a test series (Border-Gavaskar trophy for India-Australia and the Pataudi trophy for India-England). The tour goes on and the guide says explicitly, no photographs in the pavilion. Ram and Shyam are busy wondering what they should do next to show their supremacy, the first thing that comes to their mind? Take out the phone and take a photo when in the pavilion, this old gentleman who is our guide loses his shit, asks them to put their phones away and now he has forgotten what he wanted to say 😦 From then on, it was a constant battle of the 3 guides, the one we paid for and the nincompoops Ram and Shyam, the blithering stars of the day. Every time the guide spoke about something Ram and Shyam said something to interrupt him and draw the ire of the tour group. The guide also made it pretty clear that he did not want people loitering around and breaking away from the group, he made it doubly clear to Ram and Shyam who had this tendency to walk all over the place and slow down the group. The guide explicitly called out to them multiple times over the course of the tour either asking them to shut up or stop loitering.

You may think i’m basing my opinion from just this one experience, let me explain. I’ve seen this happen multiple times but this was the first time i’d done group tours and experienced this first hand that it really irritated me and forced me to write about it. I did two group tours and I had similar experiences in both.

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This other experience is a variant of the first story, TL;DR is the group was annoyed. This was a day long tour called ‘England in a day’ which is bull shit because they make it sound like England can be seen in a day! Absolutely not, its a beautiful country and I could spend days just exploring London. Here we are at this super busy station called Victoria Coach station, the guide announces that the bus will leave in 10 minutes and if anyone had to use the toilets then they should do so now or manage to hold on until we reach Stonehenge. Nine minutes go by, all of a sudden this lady (of course she is from my motherland, India) gets up and goes to the restroom, i’m not complaining yet, she needs to go if she needs to go except the guide doesn’t see this and she comes into the bus and says lets go! The lady’s husband doesn’t say a word that his wife has gone to the toilet, instead the guide decides to do a count and realizes one person is missing. We see this lady now, walking slower than ever from the restroom with no sense of urgency or respect for time, the bus is waiting for her highness. Finally we get going and reach Stonehenge, the guide says please be here by 11:50, we need to leave on time to make sure we see all the sights on the planned itinerary, repeats at least four times. The crowd disperses and we all start moving towards the world heritage site. You take a bus that ferries tourists from the welcome center to the location of Stonehenge and back, there is also an option to walk and a walking path provided on the side of the road. There was decent pileup on this private road and I was like how can you have a traffic jam on a private road that is big enough for two buses to pass side by side. The answer of course lies in India, this couple decides to walk on the other side of the road which does not have a walking path and now the buses have to wait and pass each other more carefully! You’d think the couple would see this commotion and move aside or go to the right side but nope, as oblivious as a computer science student in biology class. I go around the beautiful Stonehenge, lost in thought and time and I suddenly realize i’ve only twelve minutes left of the stipulated time and start heading back, the bus ride takes five minutes and I needed to use the restroom but overall I knew i’d make it back to the tour bus with a minute to spare. I made it on time, we then waited for over ten minutes for this Indian couple who I mentioned earlier (the one where the husband did not give two shits about leaving his wife behind). I’m disgusted at this moment, there is a lady from Wisconsin sitting next to me and we started talking about tourism with guided tours and she told me there is always this one couple or one person who will hold back the group (she wasn’t racist like me, she just said couple in general). I want to write more about the trip but the theme of the situations where I was embarrassed by the behavior of my fellow countrymen were similar.

I’d like to reiterate, I love my country and I love and respect those from my country that respect others. I may be wrong in multiple way without knowing it but I make an honest effort to fit into the newer cultures that i’m mingling with!

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