‘Don’t Touch Us, Don’t Fleece Us’ – A Prayer by Foreign Tourists

In a land where guests are equivalent to god, how do foreign backpackers feel about their travel in India?

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2 min read

On a smoky November evening, Hadal had just arrived in New Delhi, when she was greeted with imposing billboards, some of which read Atithi Devo Bhava.

Unable to make sense of the Sanskrit Shloka, she looked for more information around the billboard. Her sense of curiosity, partly the reason behind her trip to India, grew thicker with each passing moment. Soon she found a translated version that read “the guest is equivalent to god.”

The 21-year-old tourist from Israel, much like other holidaymakers, was excited about visiting India. She had checked into a hotel in Paharganj, a district famous for its foreign backpackers.

But as she walked down the busy Main Bazar, she felt a hand on her back. Even before she could realise that she had had been molested, her bike-borne offenders, disappeared into the crowd.

It’s easy to pass off Hadal’s experience as a one-off incident. That a very small portion of foreigners experience harassment in India, and that the country at large is warm and not hostile to them.

But female foreign tourists The Quint spoke to, say they’ve all been harassed, sometimes even by boys as young as 12 or 13.

Apart from being being sexually harassed, foreign nationals are also fleeced, right from the moment they land in india.

Yoni, a 24-year-old visitor from Israel, recounts how his friends were fleeced by a tout masquerading as a driver. Yoni’s friends had a pre-booked a hotel in Paharganj and simply wanted a cab to take them to their hotel.

But touts told them the area was out of bounds, owing to some festival, while adding that Delhi was on the verge of a shutdown. They then offered the tourists a comprehensive package to Jaipur.

On their way out of Delhi, both Yoni and Hadal may have passed by the same billboard. Probably, this time, one thanking them for visiting Delhi. But the irony of folded hands, was not too lost upon them. They were now aware of its other consequences.

Video Producer: Anthony Rozario

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

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