Last week I was writing about experiences that travellers make in India, about the expectations and their disappointments, about the attitude of tourists as well as the mentality of those Indians whom they meet. We have made a lot of experiences in that way and are constantly working on making people understand the country, the people and what is going on here, even at our Ashram. The main problem that people have is their own, wrong expectations. Unfortunately these expectations lead to disappointment and often enough people think it is not their own fault but the fault of others.
Sometimes it is really strange what people expect. We actually write everything very clearly on our website and in emails so that people don’t keep wrong expectations. We explain who we are, that we are an Ashram and not a hotel, that we have a family here and like to live together, that we are not religious, what services you receive when you join a retreat and much more.
After all this effort to inform people well, it is sometimes surprising what kind of expectations some people have from time to time when they arrive here for staying. One such expectation is that we would go out and take you around to show you the town. I am sorry that you will feel disappointed but we don’t do that. Understand that we have a lot of visitors coming to the Ashram throughout the year. If we went out with each and every one of them, we would not have time anymore to reply to emails such as the one that you sent before you came! We are busily working so that we can feed the 150 children of our school. We have a responsibility for a lot more people and we work hard to give them food and education.
We don’t provide tour guide services around town. Even in our retreats we don’t give a program that keeps you busy for 24 hours! This is not the sense! We want you to have time to experience yourself and not that you get stuck in a busy schedule that leaves you exhausted after your holiday.
Don’t understand me wrong, we are very happy to help you with your travel arrangements and we will be happy to tell you how to get a rickshaw into town for example. We can tell you the names of places that are worth visiting and if you go for a day trip, we even pack food for you. We make a lunch packet for the way so that you don’t need to bother about where you will go to eat. So we do take good care of you and whenever you need something at the Ashram, we will be there for you to talk to and to help.
I am always available at the Ashram. I don’t go out and while I am very busy, I am also always available for you to talk to. Anybody who is interested to talk to me can simply approach me. I have however no obligation to entertain everybody who comes here.
We also offer to arrange a taxi for our guests to be picked up from or dropped off at the airport, to make a day-trip to Agra or to go anywhere else where you want to go. For that we call a taxi company which we always use for such services. We have experienced however that people told us that the price we quoted was a bit expensive.
Let me explain this to you. If you go out onto the road and search for a car there, you may get none at all or you may also get auto-rickshaws and taxis of all kinds, especially at train stations or busy junctions. When you talk with them, you might get a cheaper price than the one that we tell you. Why is that? One reason can be that they are anyway already on the way, that they are actually going in that direction and it is convenient for them to take you and also earn a little money with it. The more probable reason is however that you are not asking a taxi company for their services.
The company that we call is a trusted company and it has trusted drivers. They are registered and have a permission to run the taxi for their business. They pay more for running their car as a taxi instead of a private car and we know they have good, serviced cars. Most of those cars that you meet like that on the road are private cars that someone uses as a taxi without having a permission in order to earn some extra money. Obviously they have fewer expenses because they don’t pay tax, don’t have an office and don’t spend much money on their car either. This is how they can charge less money. We are however honest and we like to have a car driver whom we know we can trust and this is how we like to go with an honest, reputable company. If you sit in a car that has no permission to go as a taxi and a police control stops the car, which happens often as it is a big illegal business in India, the driver and also you can face a lot of trouble!
We ourselves call exactly the same person whenever we need a taxi. Another reason for this is security. If you go with a driver of a company, you know where to call if there is any problem. When you go with a company driver, you know that you have a trained driver and not just someone who started driving a while ago just to earn some money. You can be sure that this man will not stop anywhere halfway on a lonely road and rob you or worse.
It hurts us however when people tell us that the price we told them is much too high because they imply that we are taking a high commission and practically cheating them. We don’t and we can explain the difference that you feel. The taxi that you find on the road is about 2 Dollars cheaper and you believe that we want to keep these two dollars for ourselves. We would not get very rich in two Dollars! No, we decide to call a company car for you, so that you have a safe journey, so that you can relax in the car and so that everything is in good order, even if you are stopped by a police officer on the way!
The taxi is just one example, the food that I wrote about last week is another one. There is a reason behind what is happening and if you are open to find out, you can understand it. Again I have to say, come with an open mind. Don’t expect us to entertain you for the whole day but take your responsibility yourself, enjoy your time outside and live. We take care of you whenever you need it, you can trust that.