Tourist or Visitor?

In 29 years of frequent visits, I’ve rarely been a tourist in India. I first went there to visit a friend, who was working as a long term – one year – locum for a missionary doctor. But I rapidly turned into a volunteer – a Voluntary Technical Advisor, to use the title given to me by the Medical Superintendent at one of the several hospitals I eventually worked in, to cover what could otherwise have been an awkward gap in my C.V.

I met my future wife in one of those hospitals. She’s an optician, and she was working there. Ever since then we’ve been frequent visitors to her family in their remote village in Central India.

We’ve really only been tourists in India twice.

When my parents came for our wedding, we felt we had to do the tourist bit with them. We visited all the tourist sites in Delhi, which was okay. And we spent one day visiting Agra, where we saw the Taj Mahal, and Agra Fort, and – because we went on a tour bus, the only feasible method in the time available – the interior of several souvenir shops. Interminably. Where we spent exactly nothing, much to the disgust of the tour operator.

Agra is horrible. Yes, the Taj Mahal is lovely, but it’s completely spoiled by all the touts, hustlers, and hassle. It’s really not worth the trouble. Ruined temples, which you can easily find for yourself in the jungle almost anywhere in India, or which the village kids almost anywhere will be delighted to lead you to and show you for nothing more than the pleasure of your company, are much better.

The second time we were tourists in India was again because we had other people from Britain with us, and it didn’t seem fair to them to simply do our usual dash across India to the village, stay there for three weeks, and then dash back again. This time we visited Mussoorie, but we organized it all ourselves, and we had a fabulous time. Mussoorie is fascinating. I’d love to go back sometime and see all the things we missed.

(The place in the picture is now drowned by the Bansagar dam.)