Tag Archives: emotional tourism

Everybody needs a Anurag Anthony !

It was raining at Ahmedabad in 2005. And surely, it was a lovely rain, as if the rain god had decided to quench the thirst of all its beings. We, a group of young ignited minds, were sitting in a room, engrossed in some ideology discussions of Urban Design at our CEPT boys hostel. Some were bored, some smoked, while some watched the rain outside the window. “Hey guys” a voice came, “Anyone interested for a walk in the rain?” Within a minute the room was empty. That voice was of Anurag Anthony.

Honestly, I had never walked in rain before. I am sure many of those young minds, had watched the rain only from their balcony and windows. Never had any one (even my parents) encouraged me, to get wet by these droplets in open, except for the shower in the bathroom. All of us needed Anurag to help us with this magical experience, as he is the one who will always propose an adventure. That gush of air, those cold water droplets was my first interaction with the nature’s shower. Bliss it was !

To explain his identity and qualities better, I wish to quote another incidence. One day I moved into his hostel room, after my siesta. He was sitting in a corner, near the window, engrossed in some paper. “Cigarette hai?” I asked. He pointed to a table, without even caring to raise his head. Allowing him some privacy, I lit a Classic Milds and settled on the bed. Thoughts of how divine are a noon-sleep crept it, and with it came some laziness. I closed my eyes, for that extra rest.  The burn of the cigarette end woke me up. I was amazed to see that Anurag was still engrossed in his paper. My curiosity increased when I realized that he was having a look at a map of roads in India! “Kya hua?” I could not stop asking, “Itne deer se kya dekh raha hai?” He said, “Yaar, sooch raha ho, how much time will it take to travel across all major Indian cities by road? Chalega?” Honestly, was hit by a surprise. But yes, the wheels did roll after some time.

Anurag Anthony is a character, an attitude, who is an instigator, a traveler in core,and a tourist by heart. He is the one who moves the people around him, encouraging them to shed their Laziness and hit the roads. I owe him some of my finest experiences of travelling to lesser known tourist locations. Impetuous one may call, but some tours are better unplanned. Don’t we need such people in our lives, more often?

More so, I believe that India has much more than anyone can formally present. To witness its best, you have to catch it by surprise, under the cover. I remember photographing different colours and styles of men turban, during one such adventurous travel with him. I realised it often that there was so much to see, but alas my Laziness !

I believe, “Laziness” is one of the biggest bottlenecks of tourism and we Indians are among the top in that chart. But we are big followers too ! In the Indian society (may be true for a larger world), I think Anurag would be less than 5% of the population. But they are able to influence at least on an average of 5 people per trip, and 5 trips a year. Now that’s a number ! Why don’t the Travel & tour companies, State tourism boards etc identify these unique target consumer? In my opinion, with Anurag Anthony lies the future of Indian Tourism. 

Therefore, we all need a Anurag Anthony to help us. Lets go and search one, in the crowd for ourselves.

We will be a better tourist, for sure. And the rains/monsoons would have been, never so pleasant !

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Photos from: http://o3.indiatimes.com/, http://www.xbhp.com/ , http://www.iloveindia.com/

Revival of our heritage: Lets dream cities !

I am very happy today. Saw a beautiful dream last night, that Gaya has been declared as the “UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape”.  This is fantastic and more so, because of the reasons of selection. If I can remember my dream correctly, here are some of the reasons stated.

01. Gaya, an ancient town in Bihar, is a city “frozen” in time. There is an age old ritual at Gaya, of offering “Pind Daan” has been practiced since thousands of years. This ritual in its core connects the current generation with its old generation or its ancestors.


 02. The “Andar Gaya” (the old city core) was a medieval town, made in 1663. It was fortified, with moats around and had four entrance gates. As the folklore goes, all the pandas (the Gayawal priest community) came together to stay in this fortified area. Unlike to the contemporary medieval towns like Shahjhanabad, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Jaipur etc, Gaya is a Hindu and non- trade based town.


03. Most importantly, all the houses in Andar Gaya have a unique housing typology. They all have three floors. The ground floor for ‘Jajman’, the first floor for ‘Mehman’, the second floor for ‘Pakwan’ and the top floor had a toilet (it could have been a later addition). Interestingly, more than 70% percent of the Built fabric and the structures still remain. Every courtyard, every pillar is the same, in this ancient town.

04. Moreover, it may be it is the earliest example of neighborhood planning (in 1663). Entire Andar Gaya has 14 mohallas (neighbourhoods) and 14 baithaks. These baitaks have a rich legacy of Art & Culture. This is a great example of the sociological heritage of the Gayawal panda Community.

05. The ritual is performed on the Vedies, which could be river, trees, streams, rocks etc. Ancient documentation shows there were more than 300 vedies where pind daan was performed. Today only about 15 are known.

Possibly, some day Gaya is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape. Till then, Lets keep dreaming.

May the dream come true, Amen!

India Tourism: Learn from your Food!

It might sound strange, but does it? I feel Indian Tourism can pick some learning’s from its food. The secret formula is there. The formula of how should the Indian tourism experience, be offered to the world.

Food served in major part of the world is so monotonous, where the first bite and the last bite taste the same (except for the temperature may be). But the Indian Food, it’s different! 


 Let’s observe the images above of a Gujarati Thali and a South Indian Thali, taken for reference. What do we notice? There is rice, roti, different green vegetables, fresh fruits, dal, curd, ghee, pickles, chutney, salt, salad, green chili, lemon, papad, sweet dishes and many more. Some are cooked in steam, while some are fried in oil. I have at times wondered, that why should an Indian meal consist of such a big palette of tastes. Moreover, irrespective of the different regions, where there are variations but on a broader term of taste, a meal served in Indian home has many elements of uniqueness. When served to a group of people, I can bet that no two people would have enjoyed the same taste, from the same food served.

For the world, the taste of food is limited to five basics – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory). Is the Indian Meal cooked in this limitation?  The experiment done with flavors or smell in an Indian Meal is humongous. Thanks to the rich Indian spice collection, even a modest vegetarian meal offered in less than $ 2, would take you to a roller coaster of taste. That’s the Indian uniqueness, which I feel has some learning’s to offer to the Indian Tourism.

I would like to share my observations of Indian Food, leading to my inferences or lessons drawn for Indian Tourism.

  • Option of a Variety of tastes: Even the modest food we eat in our home has a variety of tastes, spiced up. Unlike the western option of “Salt and pepper to taste”, the Indian meal offers a reasonably large option is a fact. Taking the clue, our each Indian Tourism destination needs to be packed with options (with unique tastes!)? I mean that even religious destinations like Haridwar or Ajmer, need to have more tourism products.
  • Specialize in a vernacular flavor: While the Incredible India advertisement shows the entire gamete of experiences offered in India, it is upon the states to choose for a particular flavor. If the thali’s of Rajasthan, Andhra, Bengal, Kashmir, Gujarat etc are so different, why should the amusement park in all these places be same. I feel the local “Tadka” is important! The varied tourism products may be planned “of the place”.  There is also learning for some states like Himachal, Jharkhand etc, who do not have a popular Thali (read Tourism Theme or Image), to introspect and discover their uniqueness.
  • Scope for Customization: USP of an Indian Meal is customization. People mix different elements of an Indian Meal and create their own tastes. Some might mix rice with dal then add some mango pickle and for the next bite some rice with vegetables and a bite of green chili and in very next bite, have some papad to add the crunchiness. One should really observe, how you eat your Indian meal and may be count the different tastes you had, in our food bites. Believe me, it’s amazing!

 I wonder if there can be any guide book of how to eat an Indian meal; what to mix, when and how?  There cannot be any one defined way to experience Indian meal (please read Indian Tourism). Similarly, Indian Tourism should create different tastes (tourism products) in a destination and leave on the tourist to customize their experience.

Do not bother about a planned sequence. Instead, let’s create experiences, and let the tourist plan on how he customizes “a rainfall of tastes”, in one single meal.