Tuesday, December 8, 2015


This happened many summers before. The schools had closed and it was vacation time. To beat the heat and to enjoy a cool excursion away from the hustles and bustles of city life, me and my cousins along with our Aunt and Uncle went to spent some beautiful days amidst the picturesque Nilgiri hill station.

Dense foggy mist used to envelope the whole area in the cold mornings, slowing melting as the day progressed to give way to mild sunshine and the cool dark evenings. The hills stood majestic surrounding the little cottage we had rented for our stay. The forests and the gurgling stream below gave us the feeling of being in the lap of Mother Nature. It was natural beauty personified. We used soak in this beauty during our many walks through the rounding hill roads. Occasionally the trumpeting of an elephant or the cries of a deer or bear could be heard.

Our cottage was a two bedroom building with a small living cum dining room and a little kitchen. The most fascinating thing I found in the cottage was the hearth place, used by its earlier occupant for warming the rooms. The floor was made of wood to provide more warmth. We were to stay here for a week or so.

The days passed lazily as we lived leisurely and at our own pace. It was soon time to leave. It was our last day of stay in this beautiful hill station. We were to leave the next day. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins had gone out to visit a botanical garden, some distance away. I was not taken as a punishment for playing in the waterfalls yesterday even though Aunt had forbade it and was therefore left with Kittunni Chetan, the caretaker of the cottage. I was angry at that and wanted to go out and enjoy.

I looked for the opportune moment and as soon as Kittunni Chetan had gone to collect firewood, I went out riding the bicycle that we had rented out. It was freedom unknown as I cycled through the winding roads, crossed narrow wood made bridges with the stream rushing below it and went cycling along the small pathways, generally used by people for walking.

I was speeding down a slope when the brakes failed and I skidded down. I got hurt and was lying on the roadside, moaning softy because of the pain. I couldn’t get up. It was after about ten minutes that a youth, probably 19 or 20 years old, came that way on his bicycle. He saw me hurt and pulled me up. There was blood coming from the wounds in my knees and elbow. He told his house was nearby and took me there and bandaged my wounds. He also came me glass of tea to drink.

“What’s your name?”
“Divya”, I replied.
“Where do you stay?”
I told him the name of my city.
“Oh! So you don’t live here. You are a tourist. Where are your parents?”
I narrated to him the story of my escape.
He smiled at me and said, “So, you are a prisoner out of the jail. Come, I’ll leave you at your cottage.”
I told him that my relatives would return only in the evening and that Kittunni Chetan being old and nearly blind, won’t miss me; so I had time till evening to roam this lovely place. He agreed to take me around and both of us went cycling.

I liked him very much. He was tall and with a kind and handsome face. He was very nice and entertaining. He helped me forget my pains caused due to the accident by cracking jokes and singing songs. He took me into the forest, showed me the many birds and monkeys and let me play in the waters of the stream. He took me into the tea estates and showed me how tea leaves are plucked. He showed me the tea factory for which he worked. I enjoyed the beauty of the place with this new companion of mine. I was going to be evening and we reluctantly started to return to the cottage.

“Did you enjoy?”
I nodded vigorously to show that I had enjoyed so very much.
“What will you give me for taking you to all these places?”
I said I didn’t have anything to give. And suddenly stopped my bicycle, plucked a wild flower by the roadside and gave it to him. He was pleased.
“I don’t have anyone. Will you be my little friend?”
I smiled.
“You will come again, won’t you?”
I nodded.
“Will you come to see me?”
Yes. I nodded again.

We had come to the gate of the cottage. We said ‘bye, meet you again’, and I went inside. After a while my cousins and Aunt and Uncle came. They told me their tales of sightseeing and adventure. I didn’t speak about my day but just lied that I was watching T.V the whole day.

We left for the city next day early morning. I didn’t see my friend again.
I have come back to this place many times during the past but have never been able to spot him. I have walked along the paths we walked and cycled, have enquired about the tall, fair, handsome young man; but could never find out anything about him. But in my heart he will remain eternally my friend, a dear compassionate companion who had given me a wonderful day to treasure among the hills and the streams and birds.

Jim Corbett National Park is known for its majestic tigers and the rich flora and fauna. It lets visitors enjoy the jungle experience and appreciate the free living of animals. I was glad I was able to do a safari of the jungle reserve area (Sitavani) late this year. Though unlucky to spot the tiger, we were happy to have seen plenty of deer and elephants. But what is cause for alarm is the way people expect animals to be. We were watching a huge Monitor Lizard nap in the morning sun when another group, two families with kids, joined us.

Seeing the animal making no movement, some of the elders in the group tried disturbing it by making noises and throwing tiny stones. The children also started doing the same. It took some stern warning from us and our driver to make them stop their behaviour. You have come to the jungles to appreciate the wild life and to teach your children also to do the same, and not to disturb them or to get the animals to do things to your liking.

I have seen that in the zoo too. The tiger would be sleeping peacefully in a corner after a meal and the crowd gathered around it would be jeering and shouting, just so that they can see it walk or hear it growl. What nasty selfish beings we are! I heard a lady ask the guard, “Why is the animal sleeping? Why can’t you wake it up so that we have a better photograph?” Such stupid questions! How would you behave if someone does the same with you when you are sleeping?

Tourism should not be at the cost of those that you have come to see, enjoy and appreciate. A responsible tourist is one who likes to see things as they are and is able to derive pleasure and enjoyment without damaging or altering the way things have been preserved or protected.

It is important to be appreciative of the nature without destroying it especially when you are in ecologically sensitive areas like hill stations, forest areas, beaches and lake/riversides. These areas have a precarious balance and it would be a great catastrophe if man tries to alter it in his greed to derive more pleasure and enjoyment.

Moreover the people of hill stations are very protective of their land and natural heritage and it would be a huge disgrace and disservice that we are doing to these people as tourists if we destroy their land and their homes. Carelessly throwing plastic waste on the beaches, throwing left-over food into the lake while boating, using motor vehicles when walking or cycling could have been used, teasing animals and birds that are natural to these areas are all acts of an irresponsible tourist. Such tourists actually do not deserve to be in such a naturally beautiful and divine place. 
While it is important to be extra sensitive while visiting ecologically fragile eco-systems and hill stations, it is also important to remain responsible when visiting historical places and monuments. There are very few historical monuments in India that are left untouched of scribbles on its walls. And the fact that parents do not bother (or in some cases even encourage) when their children deface monument walls is a very sad matter. The lack of cameras and security guards in many places of archaeological significance encourage people to profess their love or their anger on these beautiful walls that have withstood time and seen better days. Would these morons have dared touch the walls or scrape of the gemstones from it had the king been alive and ruling?

Historical monuments like natural resources need to be preserved for the enjoyment and learning of posterity. Tourism - ecological, historical or otherwise, should be looked at from the perspective of sustainable development. While they can be admired and enjoyed by the current generation, it also needs to be preserved for future generations. They too have a right to this inheritance.

There are also more subtle actions that a tourist needs to be aware of to be responsible and courteous in his/her ways and means during travel. This includes respecting the local culture and traditions. It may be as simple as covering your head when entering a temple or not wasting the food offered. A responsible tourist studies about the place he/she is planning to visit and tries to understand the customs and ways of life there. Talking courteously and politely with the hosts can also help the tourist understand a lot about the culture and practices of the place.

Visitors should also try to minimize plastic usage and re-use things while on travel rather than buy new items each day and throw them off after momentary use. Using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, getting own water bottles rather than buying new ones every time and carrying a rucksack or backpack instead of asking shopkeepers for plastic covers can help. Tourists are also encouraged to try out local cuisines and other products and give a boost to the local economy.

Tourists should also not be noisy and disturbing to the local population and to other tourists, especially when travelling in groups. Maintaining decorum wherever they might be during their travel, be it restaurants, parks, rope-ways or any other place, is important. They should also teach their children to be responsible while travelling.

Another scene often encountered is of groups of youth drinking in public in some of these tourists locations and making it uncomfortable and difficult for families and ladies. Police should take strict action against people indulging in such activities and making travelling/trekking difficult for others.
Ensuring their own and others safety is also an important aspect of responsible travelling. Not venturing out too late if the place is deserted, taking along necessary medicines, being cautious of the surroundings - all form a part of responsible travelling.

The hotels, tour operators and other in the tourism business should also do their bit of recycling and re-using of materials, conservation of energy and use of renewable sources and ensure cleanliness of the place to promote sustainable tourism. They should be mindful of the need for preservation of nature while they make a livelihood out of it. Greed should not cloud their eyes that they try to do reckless business forgetting the fragility of the environment in which they live. They should also remind the guests of the need to be responsible and encourage them in indulging in responsible activities.

While it is difficult for policing of tourists all the time and at every place, it is more important that the tourist becomes conscious of the need for preserving the tourist spots. How many times have we lamented that the beach has become dirty or the hill station turned a garbage dump yard? It is our duty to do our bit to ensure that we preserve these beauties and let the coming generations too enjoy it.

I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda