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The Guides of India – a tribute to their travel wisdom

Story A
Walking down a phantom fort and listening to stories that Katrina Kaif shot a movie behind an old ancient wall and that she pays regular visits here, before the release of her movie – Thank you guide, this what I came for! And I will go to every vendor who is ready to loot me in your collaboration if you want.

Story B
Walking down the same palace with a guide-book or a geeky friend(just for intellectual purpose) and discovering myths yourselves. Eavesdropping guide talks, Travel-googling or asking any strange tourist about things you’re super curious about. Huh, Too much effort?

Déjà vu?, Be it a great or a pathetic experience, all of them count for a memorable trip. The protagonists of our trip in a new land – tour guide (ɡʌɪd/ noun, a person who shows the way to others, especially one employed to show tourists around places of interest.) not only help us explore the place easily, but teaches a lot about culture, culinary delights, local slangs and sometimes, how to be street smart. That’s what an ideal guide is supposed to be, a heartwarming host and a storyteller! It’s not always a fairy-travel tale though, the definition of guide changes with time and place, at some places you’ll come across humble guys, who’ll add souvenirs full of interesting  stories and myths in your trip. While, on the other side, there will be these smart locales who take this ‘job’ for the heck of money and learning English(using all the fake accents), which is a nightmare for any tourist.

Bada Masjid in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and Junagarh Fort in Bikaner, Rajasthan, follow a definite guide system, where a guide is allocated to a bunch of tourists at a very cheap rate, and there is also a slight chance that you might end up being friends with somebody in your gang, after a few waves of laughter and crazy stories by the guide. In Fatehpur Sikri, you will find kids playing this role of a guide, asking a huge amount for the tour. However, you can hire the well-trained guides right outside Qutab Minar, New Delhi.

“You can judge a guide by his pitch” – Be it their certified guide promise, cheapest price in the premise, the explanation behind why they’re better than the rest and so on. Their accent and moves are so engaging that no one can skip them unless they have ignoring skills. Sounding so pissed off, here presenting, few techniques, punches and pick up lines that I heard on my trip:

1. While at Agra Fort in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, a guide approached me with this phrase, “Guide ki jarurat padti hai…Solah(16) quilen hai andar, bhatak jaoge…”(You’ll definitely need a guide as there are 16 forts inside, you might get lost). Hence, the concerned guides, too fatherly, but might be playing a bluff.

2. Ever wonder that time of the day influences whether you need a guide or not? Mind burst? NO. Just another lingo that concludes this – “Subah ka time hai, guide to lagega hi”(It’s morning, you’ll need a guide for sure.). Were they available at a cheap and fresh price in morning, perhaps?

3. “Andar jaake guide mehnga milega”(Guide will charge you more inside the premise). Probably holds significance, but hopefully, the quality of the tour guide does not degrade while finding the guide inside.

4. “Shorts, T-shirts aren’t allowed inside”, “Slippers, you’ll be stopped outside the gate only”, and what not. They can curse your exploration with such irrelevant negative though. It’s better if you confirm these things from a local shopkeeper or any other person as most of the times it is a trick, so as you buy trousers, dupatta, shoes, etc.

5. “Sher sunaun, ek rupee me?”(Will you hear a poem for 1 Rupee?), were the lines by a 10-year-old kid, since I was hearing such a thing for the first time and similar offers came to me from 3-4 other kids too, I decided to give an ear to this. I heard the Sher very carefully for around 2-3 minutes  from a guy who was just speaking in one tone and shaking a lot, the only line I could remember is, “Madam Deewani, Pariyon ki Rani”. Indeed a cheesy collection of pick up lines. When asked about the meaning of the poem, the kid was blank and replied, “nobody taught me the meaning(with a disappointed face)”.

6. Alert! Whenever someone approaches with this move (consider auto/rickshaw wala too), “Acha lage to dena, warna kuch mat dena” (If you like our service, then only pay us, else don’t lend us a penny),just move away from there. This is the best warning that you can get. These are the people who’ll make bad faces at the time of payment, as according to them they have put their entire soul for the client and deserve a decent amount for the same. But their expectation never meets reality. Do fix the price beforehand and avoid any kind of tantrums later.

7. “Audio guides are useless, guide knows everything” – make sense if a guide is the God for tourist who actually knows everything about a place. In fact, the audio guide is a much more peaceful affair if you love self-exploration.    

8. “We know the good places to take pictures and we will click your cool pictures too in all angles and poses” – now that sounds tempting, if you have an insta-friendly friend in your gang, just relax, the guide will handle them. Camera-friendly guides, the new cool?

9. These people are not actually guides, but may come up with full package deals, such as they will be a tour guide, take you to all the vendors dealing in a popular entity of a place, be it a pearl or attire, they know the best place(read commission earning) to take their fellow tourist.

10. The funniest, vulnerable and trustworthy of all – “Offseason hai, Dus(10) rupees me chal lo”(It’s off-season, we will only charge Rs 10). What can you say?guide-kid

I did hire one and heard a lot of filmy stories along with loot at the souvenirs shop inside. But the experience wasn’t that bad, as he did whatever you’ve read in above points and hence, was able to enlighten me that things around can come in any form – money, fun or knowledge.

All this was not to objectify guides as bad guys, it was a simple observation of a human on what extent a human can try to fool others. No wonder, there are great tour guides, who deserve kudos for their wonderful service. There are certified guides from State Tourism Boards, ASI(Archaeological Survey of India), etc – just to get a quality check, in case you want to hire a guide. Anyways, make it a worth spending and a memorable experience and not a pain in the trip.

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