Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 10/25/20 6:39 AM

Guest column: Travellers from Hell

Travellers from hell

Is it in some DNAs to be horrendous tourists?

For far too many years to count, us Indians have won the Terrible Tourist sweepstakes, hands down.

We are the group of travellers who point at the short skirts of the cabin crew and snigger. Who settle a chubby teenager on our lap and then argue with the coach director that the kid is below 10, and doesn’t need a separate ticket. Who carry bottles of liquor into tavernas in Milan, protesting that we`d done that in BYOB joints across Australia, so there. Who bring burlesque dancers aboard cruise ships.

We`ve worked long and hard to gain a reputation for being loud as hell, no respecter of rules, people who  let our children run amok just about everywhere.

But here`s an update: the competition entered the act insidiously and now,  they have overtaken us.

The current holders of the Terrible Tourist trophy are known the world over  for  their utter disdain for rules, for people at large, for any vestige of basic courtesy. Have- money-will-travel is their creed, and by Pangu, they do just that.

Here are two instances. On board a vessel making the crossing from Queenstown to Wellington in New Zealand, all the decks were full of `those` chattering tourists. They ate noisily, spat bits of unchewed food back onto their paper plates and jumped queues at the restroom with insouciance. When we were passing Cook Strait, most of us went to the top deck for a better view and better pics. An American who was on the same coach tour as I was, came up to me all shook up.

He`d been standing at the railing clicking pictures when he felt some activity in the region of his lower limbs. A woman, one of `those tourists,`  was trying to come up to the railing in front of him…from in between his legs!

In Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, we were on a city walk. As our guide was telling us about the town`s terrible war history, along came a woman,  of the ethnicity under discussion here, who parked herself at the head of our group, and yelled loudly to her friends across the Mostar Bridge. When our guide gently told her to keep her voice down, the woman started to yell saying, I will talk as loudly as I want, who the hell are you to tell me to pipe down. Defeated, our group moved away, the woman still screaming abuse in our wake.

Did you say the Indian tourist is one who leaves a long and lasting impression on the places he visits and the people he meets there? No longer, mitron. That crown has been snatched by the people we are having a `friendly skirmish` with at Pangong Tso.

This ran in THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS of 25 Oct 2020.

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Sheila Kumar • October 25, 2020

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