One of the richest in cultural heritage, this country is as ancient as one can imagine. Historians and their proclamations have been contradictory, but one can safely conclude that the Indian subcontinent holds a tradition that is traceably more than 3000 years old. This does not include settlements that were staggeringly dispersed even before, having emerged with the breaking away of the Indian Craton.
Atithi Devo Bhava is a message that is ingrained in our social mileu, deep rooted in every family, irrespective of region, religion or any social class. Strangely enough, I have noticed that this holds good for rural India even now in individual families. Rural India has been a torch bearer in carrying on selfless traditions such as these. Urban India has been moving towards a materialistic rat race inspired by the west (not that it has left rural India untouched). However, much has not been lost yet and a reference or two here and there with a tweak can rejuvenate and retrieve the losing values. Interventions from Government and non-Government agencies could help, if they are initiated with an intensity that is on a war footing right now. With India coming to be known more widely across nations, as we approach the third decade of this millenium and with politico-economic changes gaining pace, India’s revenue build up would be phenomenal with an ascending tourist centric climate. Therefore, much has to be done in architecturing not only a robust, clean physical infrastructure but also a friendly social edifice.
The competitive market dynamics have instricated our operators whether they be cab drivers, travel agents/tour operators or hotel representatives to begin hounding our tourists at our airports and railway stations or sometimes even before they arrive. Dilution and degeneration of the true values of Atithi Devo Bhava stares back at us, when we observe the ground realities. ‘Incredible India’ is a brand that we Indians have been propagating, but if we closely examine realities, to find someone walking the talk, is a rare opportunity.
Here are some behavioural attributes that we need to vigorously work on:
- Understanding that visitors or guests are not well versed with your cultural norms (They are strangers)
- Accepting them as they were, unless they were offendingly in conflict with the core universal ethical values
- The common language to greet is a broad ear to ear confident smile. A ‘namaste’ would surely be justified
- Attempt to disclose name and who you represent, is a must
- If there is no warmth expressed by the guest, provide sufficient time for the guest to open up.
- Inquire about comfort levels – transport, accommodation, location and objective of visit and act accordingly
- Be equipped with sufficient information to address the fundamental queries
2. Empathise with challenges and issues
- The visitor or the guest may have problems that may not concern you directly but your help in whatever small way is a great assistance to anyone on a foreign or unknown land.
- Be patient with the knee-jerk reactions and respond in a calculated manner. Patience is a very significant attribute all along.
- Provide as much information on the subject that you can, unless you realise that parting with such information is a security threat.
- Provide suggestions only when you have ascertained that you have been able to build a rapport. Do not attempt to push your suggestions too far.
- Avoid intruding on the privacy of the guest. One must understand the thin line demarcating the warmth of a host and the stoic space for private transactions.
3. Display the pride that you have for your heritage
- Regard it an honour to be backed by a history with diverse cultural heritages, which have been over the years confronted by innumerable invasions, wars and conflicts, and is yet standing out in the form of a unique robust society and nation, rich in its music, art and literature.
- Should be able to see through the subtle connection between the sub-cultures on our sub-continent; languages, traditions and even festivals. Let not the divisive undercurrents come into the fore. If ever fingers are pointed at them, they should be underplayed.
- Narratives about heroes of our society both in the backdrop of our history and those contemporary ones, who are day in and day out contributing to the well being of our society in terms of scientific discoveries, preservation of bio-diversity, education and poverty alleviation should be boldly and proliferatingly shared.
I have touched upon only the tip of an ice-berg with regard to issues related to our behaviour with visitors or guests. But by and large the fundamentals have been wrapped and even if we start acting upon them as a practice, we would sufficiently have moved forward.