I already told you that the season started here and we thus have several guests at the Ashram. Of course they also go out, they enjoy seeing India but unfortunately they sometimes have unpleasant experiences as well – often because of the behavior of salesmen, guides and other Indians around them. Due to such experiences we have already stopped recommending certain sights and unfortunately two of our visitors had such an episode here in Vrindavan today, too!
Two ladies from Germany went out for some sightseeing in Vrindavan. When they arrived at Nidhi Van, close to Vrindavan’s Shah ji temple, they got out of the electric rickshaw. The moment they left the rickshaw, they were surrounded by religious tourist guides that wanted to take them to the temple and, most of all, through Nidhi Van, the garden in which believers say Krishna dances every night. There, guides get a good commission on every donation that a tourist or pilgrim makes while they lead them through. Obviously, they are all too eager to get a non-Indian tourist to guide through the garden.
That’s how our German friends were suddenly found themselves in the middle of these men, all wanting them to come with them for their visit of the garden. They were overwhelmed and even the rickshaw driver got out to help them until the gate. The men were practically shouting at them to take their services. Finally, the women gave in to the pressure and chose one of the guides which made all others back off. They vented their aggression on the rickshaw driver instead, slicing up his tires!
As expected, the guide in the garden told our guests stories of Hindu mythology, made them donate at various places in the garden and finally requested money for his services as well. They nearly got into a fight, he was angry for them not wanting to pay the horrendous price he quoted them. In the end, they settled – but of course, they paid a lot!
It was an adventure and in the end the ladies returned to the Ashram in good mood – but during this experience it was not at all times that comfortable for them, so they would not like to go there again. And we have had people return from other places disturbed, shaken and even close to tears due to such mob attacks!
That’s how we stopped recommending first Barsana, a pilgrimage place close-by that has beautiful temples but also very insisting beggars, guides and priests! After that, the next place we stopped suggesting to our guests was Fatehpur Sikri, after years that nearly every visitor who went from here to the Taj Mahal also had gone to see this ghost town with its beautiful architecture! The guides there stopped our taxi already before entering the parking place, refusing to back off until passengers would choose a guide to go with or got off the car early to walk through the crowd of guides and salesmen until the entrance!
Nobody was able to visit these places in peace! There was no joy anymore in seeing them, it was a constant fight to get other people off their back. Of course, everything is normally manageable – but if you only struggle, there is no space left to just enjoy!
That’s how we stopped recommending several places – and finally this means it hurts India’s tourism! It is bad for everyone: for the tourists who don’t enjoy or just don’t come anymore, for the salespeople who would have best business if the tourists are happy and even for nice people who would like to create such an atmosphere or want to protect foreigners from such attacks! Something needs to be done against those fake priests, guides and salesmen so that people can once again enjoy the treasures of this country in peace!