India is a land full of diversity- cultural, linguistic, and geographical. The mighty Himalayas adorn its crown in the north, and the backwaters and coastlines add to the serene landscape in the south. But only natural resources and landscape don’t make a country, it’s people do! This is where, unfortunately, we mess up.

India is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Millions of foreign tourists visit the country every year. They come here to satiate their curiosity about one of the world’s oldest civilisations, its heritage and culture, its architectural marvels, and its cuisine. Sadly, most of them go back with horrid memories of harassment by Indians.

Atithi Devo Bhava- Mere words!

The national tourism department started its rejuvenated campaign of ‘Incredible India’ with the tag line ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. Roughly translated, these words mean ‘(One who thinks that) the guest is God’.

While these mellifluous words seem to be inviting and welcoming, they are mere words. This is clearly evident in the way Indians treat some of the foreign tourists. Of late, criminal incidents involving foreign tourists has seen a drastic increase. These involve rape and sexual harassment, duping, and cheating. Are these acts even remotely close to how we would treat our Gods?

Some deplorable recent cases

Recently, a Belgian woman reported that she had to go back from New Delhi within a day of her arrival. A gang of men, who claimed to be ‘tourist police’, harassed her, traumatized her and duped her. Also, they did not let the lady reach her hotel and made her stay in a cheap room. Somehow, she got out of the place and rushed directly to the airport to go back to her country.

Sexual harassment of foreigners is also not uncommon. We keep reading about such cases in the newspaper from time to time. Not long ago, there was a report of a lady jumping from the third floor to save herself from attackers.

Also, there are incidents where foreigners were duped at shops and hotels by charging them more than double the cost of certain goods and services. Don’t you think that these acts are utterly shameful and totally uncalled for?

Indians and their sad contradictions

Indians are making their presence felt in the field of technology, science, sports, and arts. However, the actions of some others are constantly negating these achievements. This is largely due to the poor treatment that foreigners receive in the country.

When Indians travel abroad, they want to be treated just like foreigners. Indians don’t like to be called ‘brownie’, ‘coloured’ or ‘Paki’ when they travel abroad. However, the same people call foreigners by names like ‘gora’ and ‘firangi’. Hypocrisy?

Indians seek respect and recognition in the world for their culture and distinctions. At the same time, however, they are not ready to respect foreign tourists who come to their country.

Perceptions and their impact

While it is very difficult to arrive at the exact reason for such misdemeanour and misconduct, there are a few pointers. Indians believe that foreign tourists are extremely rich. Thus, some locals want to extract as much money from them as possible. This might explain why foreigners are charged much more than the regular tariff at many hotels and shops.

Yet another skewed perception of foreigners is that they are pretty open about physical relationships. Indians often see kissing and sex scenes in Hollywood movies and tend to think that it is OK for them. Somehow, the concept of ‘consent’ is absent from their mindset. Why don’t we realise that it is never OK to force yourself on another person?

Because visitors from abroad have a limited understanding of local languages and culture, they become an easy target for tricksters. These cons dupe foreigners on false pretexts and take advantage of their situation.

Making India incredible again

It is not surprising that these untoward incidents shatter India’s image. However, we have to work together to mend the damage and make India incredible again. Let us start believing in ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (meaning- The world is one family) and start treating everyone with respect.

At the same time, we need to have a zero-tolerance policy for nonsense. Competent authorities need to promptly track and punish perpetrators. This will decrease the frequency of such incidents.  Nothing is impossible if we put our wholehearted efforts in the right direction. How about creating a better India where tourists want to come back again and again?

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