Strike tourism: St Mark's Square, Venice: Striking Workers
The marked shift from picture postcard tourism to the participatory kind has given our perception of tourism new spectacles. To view from a distance and snap a picture “Wah Taj!” is considered the jaded route. Tourists have outgrown brochures and are experiencing the esoteric. “The elections in Kerala”, “Monsoon Tourism”, are the new packaged ideas that now draw tourists to this God forsaken destination. And it was the Minister for Home and Tourism of the State of Kerala, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who suggested that the striking trademark of communism as a marketable tourism commodity. Even in jest, his was the pitch of a true blue capitalist salesman. He said, “After Monsoon tourism, strike tourism seems to be the emerging trend in the state. There are tourists who visit the state to witness strikes.”
Ahh! Even Working Communism with its practitioners has the potential to bring in the political tourists. After all, the world sees less of this ideology now, and before China markets it, Kerala should patent it.
This small strip of land boasts of learned men and writers but readers lament (barring O V Vijayan) that the nouveau writers lack depth and substance. Perhaps it is because we have not experienced the ravages of war or some other conflict that perfect the writer’s crucible. The never -ending wars that mark “One Hundred Years of Solitude” or the collective despair of Turkey in Pamuk’s “Snow” do not echo in our literature. Is there no great literature without the experience of the tragic? And perhaps it is for this reason, that writers here make the best tragedy tourists: rushing to regions where the earth has cleaved or the oceans have heaved, to borrow some sorrow, borrow some pain and to reproduce later as authentic experience, marketing it as literature. Remember Amitav Ghosh’ s literary essays on Tsunami. No, it was not the clinical, sterile report of a journalist covering a tragedy; it was literature scalloped with the writer’s sorrowful viewpoint.
I heard a writer once say at an event that he had rushed to Gujarat to see for himself the earthquake that shook the region. Perhaps, to sift through emotions and glean something for the storehouse of his memory.
“Who are you to sit in judgment?” You may ask.
“No one.” I reply. What I point out is that it is just another form of tourism my dear.
Sex and the City
Forget the much-advertised eco-tourism, home-culture tourism, agro-tourism etc. try some other stuff. Each city has its charm and you could thread cities together and compare notes and create a genre of tourism. For grass and sex toruism there is no other city that showcases it better than Amsterdam. Museums abound in the city. And in the famous Albert de Cuupy market, things can turn sweet and chocolaty.
For the sweet tooth.
Meela the Brave and Me the Cautious (What a pair!) checked into the first cheap hotel that we could set sight on in Amsterdam. We were on Damrak Street. We had no clue how the night in this fabulous city would unfold. Meela the Brave slept on while I sleeplessly peeped out of the window. The most beautiful women and burly men stalked the street all through the night-Shouting, screaming and hawking their wares. One night, two men growled and fought like animals till someone called the police. How did we do two nights there? Beats me.
Is that Cleopatra? Yes it is. On Las Ramblas, Barcelona
On Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the most happening place in that city; in costumes and makeup these performers sit in perfect stillness.
Beggar Tourism is probably my most original idea. If some nut of a tour operator can market this concept, then Beggars can make a quick buck. Back home, the woeful tales of Indian beggars on the streets may make good oral literature. That is if you are into that sort of thing.
For mind blowing Fireworks
Before these too become clichés, grab a camera and journey into the unknown. By the way a certain guy named the Devil is starting a low cost airline to Hell. He promises mind blowing fireworks and a fiery experience that is beyond all superlatives.
The fine print: “You can check out any time you like. But you can never leave.”