Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Smells good, sounds too good

Taxi driver Sreenu is a worried man these days. Apart from ferrying tourists, he has to make sure that he takes bath every day and also uses a deodorant, thanks to Renuka Tourism Chowdhury. The minister has initiated an ‘innovative’ ad campaign for the tourism sector to clean up its act, and she means it literally this time. That means taxi drivers, auto drivers, shop owners and waiters will now be persuaded to stay clean and fresh. “The body odour of many drivers was far from inviting” and this seems to have convinced Mrs Chowdhury to take such an initiative. I don’t know how many foreign tourists have actually complained about the body odour of taxi drivers, but talking about assumptions, many foreign tourists who come to India have this preconceived notion that our country is still in the pre-historic age that consists of snakes, cows on the road, poverty and spirituality… all at the same breath. Sounds of, “Oh, there is a Pizza Hut in Hyderabad,” or “Hey, your roads are really clean,” or even, “Do you guys watch NBA? You guys also use ipods?” And when the answer to any of the above questions is given in the affirmative, there is always a minute of silence that precedes the next sentence. I once heard one of an expat explaining to his friend about a snake charmer’s show that he saw during one of his visits to Rajasthan. And his excitement was palpable. It was, as if, behind this veil of IT growth, he was able to dig out the real India – “a six-feet long King Cobra”. And fortunately, or unfortunately, that “snake and jungle” myth might have got another endorser that day. And who knows what will be the length of the King Cobra, after that man reaches Dallas? Maybe during one of the weekend parties, to show that he saw quite a bit of real India, he might have told his friends that he saw an eightfeet long King Cobra in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. That means, during his flight back, the Cobra length increased by around two feet!

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