Travel classification is evolving. It has to because almost every place talked about on the social media is over-flowing with people looking for something. In fact, every place not talked about on the social media is also full of curious people touching, feeling, and experiencing notions that they have as yet only read about. People… well, most of the times, it is just gawking crowds that are now in a race to be recognized as travelers. And so we have solo travelers, family revelers, influence promoters, and thrill chasers competing with the stare-at-the-girl-in-a-bikini types, confused-with-the-map-in-hand types, I’ll-give-you-a-bad-review sort, and the lets-have-beer-wherever-we-are types. These lists can be never-ending as the way people perceive travel can be endless. Before anyone complains, let me add that the selfie-anywhere disease is common to almost any type of traveler. There are also the eat-all-you-can combining their strength with the click-all-you-can rappelling all over Instagram and twitter. But this is just how the traveler behaves.
Travelling isn’t only about traveler behavior dominating travel promotions as this can get repetitive and lose its charm in due course. After all, how many times can a person stand by the sea, click a selfie, and caption it: ‘The endless sea is so much like depth of my eyes’. I mean, you can’t keep going to beaches to stand in a colourful bikini and share those pictures. It gets monotonous. You can’t go on clicking an insane number of pictures of mountains or rivers only to caption them with words like awesome, restless, enjoy, perfect, purrfect, cool, kewl, and wish-you-were-here-with-me! How many different cones of ice-cream will find their way into your pictures? How many times can five of you line-up and pose with pouts? How many times will you click pictures of half-eaten dishes in restaurants and caption them with yummy, delicious, go-for-it, or worth-a-try? Travel needs to be more creative than all these clichéd pictures.
‘What else?’ asked a friend, ‘what other twists can there be to travel?’
Years back when we were going around Yorkshire I remember meeting a group of tourists who were doing a round of churches. Then there were people who were interested only in archaeological sites. ‘Ruins. You see just ruins?’ I asked.
‘Yes, this is what interests us.’
And that was when it dawned upon me that people in the West travel according to their interest. There are many who just go around museums and nothing else. Of course there are always people who love to enter shopping arcades and malls because they love buying things that could anyway have bought from wherever they came from.
India is a haven for the creative tourist. If you track all that is happening around you, you will know what I am getting at. Rahul Gandhi was labelled recently as a tragedy tourist as he loved hopping to wherever and whenever some tragedy struck. He wanted to get photographed with people who have suffering in their eyes and he probably wanted to be different from the usual political tourist who visited cities only to explore the possibility of coalitions! If our netas can do this, why can’t the rest of us? I guess a lot of people have already begun this exercise as tragedy strikes rather frequently in our country. If it isn’t famine or drought, it could be floods and landslides. Or even riots between groups that don’t know the reasons why they are torching buses and cars on the highways. Or blocking trains. Or sitting on dharnas on busy roads.
There is immense potential in jungleraj tourism and you probably know which state I am talking about. Go ahead and meet the people who successfully manage to put fear into the hearts of ordinary citizen. You could always keep a track of news and rush to villages to get a closer look at the way gaurakshaks behave and function and be a gaurakshak tourist. You could even transform your visit into a spot-the-gaurakshak campaign and have pens and key-chains as giveaways in online contests.
For those who love to investigate and go deeper into issues, there is immense potential in trace-the-scam-path tourism where you just drive around spotting offices and houses tainted with some specific scam. Interesting, innit? You could evolve into an accomplished scam-gate tourist and make a name for yourself on the social media and get your blog entered into some or the other best-travel-blogger list and happily share this info in Facebook updates. You could always look for areas to click and share the path that a scam could possibly have adopted. There is a possibility of converting even village burning into a tourist activity as this has started happening rather too often… why allow only politicians and goons to have all the fun all the time. Let tourists come and actually burn down our villages so that the fees from them can help re-build and rehabilitate our suffering rural population. Politicians and goons never help destroyed villages bounce back but tourists can, at least, make sure that our thriving rural culture doesn’t remain a destructive conflagration.
Well, it isn’t just gruesome and high-risk tourism ideas that I intend sharing. India gives many other esoteric choices that I’m sure are not available anywhere else in the world. Rath Yatra tourism has both political as well as religious connotations and tracking them through all the States and UTs of India can be a 365-day obsession for some. Some may also call it procession tourism, though this latter term can include the thousands of wedding processions and those associated with myriad customs connected to everything ranging from pleasing some remote Goddess to even childbirth. We Indians are fond of kowtowing to trees (like pepul and barh), wells (kuan pujan), rivers (Ganga aarti), machines, and almost every object that sounds new and expensive. Processions are mandatory most of the time and we have converted it into an art-form that tourists will surely find stimulating. Now that we are on religion and beliefs, why leave out our babas? Baba ji tourism has already attracted the world press and our babas are, in some ways, more known than even our monuments and world heritage sites. Look at the crescendo of devotion to AsaRam, Nirmal baba, Ram Rahim, Rampal, and Ramdev… and believe me, this is just the start of one never-ending queue. These babas are spread all over our geography and can be tourism stars.
Before I get too bogged down by babas and religious chants, let me add that there are other minor forms of tourisms that our government can definitely promote. Build and nurture a love-jihad tourist circuit where tourists can even interact with couples and try and discover if love was really the reason behind an alliance. The azaadi-ka-nara tourism circuit will take tourists to our universities and colleges ranging from JNU to Hyderabad where the interested ones can know more about the concept of freedom of speech and expression as understood by students, academics, and different castes. The farmer suicide tourist may not always go back happy and smiling but might suggest us some lasting solution. Let there be shoot-the-Romeo tourism in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Karnataka where moral policing somehow manages to remain in the news. This form of tourism obviously has the added advantage of promoting little-known monuments and parks where crumbling walls and tree trunks have all the signs of love being in the air. I recently noticed a ‘I love you, <name>’ message on difficult to access part of a high flyover in Delhi and wondered if shooting (with a camera, obviously) this trend could be converted into a money-earning venture.
Tourism has no boundaries and I guess it is time that it ceased to be a passive observer. Let tourism help us get rid of the evil in our society and interactions and the revenue earned might actually transform the nation from being an Incredible India in advertisements to one that lives and breathes.
15 June 2017