I have to admit those Chinese are a lot smarter than we Indians are are. We may think we’re on the cutting edge of technology in the IT revolution and smarter than any one else in the world. Our NRIs may be the richest ethnic group in the US and we now have our first Indian dollar billionaire. However, when it comes to making money, the Chinese have us beat easily.
Here we are, doing our level best – within the restrictive parameters of our babus- to make a fast buck. We’re selling shoes, brains, spices, cloth and whatever else we can lay our hands on. We’re begging those rich foreign tourists to visit the Taj Mahal, stay in a Rajasthan Palace and sun bathe in Goa. All for what? It costs us money to advertise these attractions in Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times.
What we don’t know is that we’re sitting on a gold mine. We have 400-odd million of our wonderful citizens living below the poverty level and we’re just not exploiting them properly. That’s where the Chinese are smarter than us. They’re now arranging guided tours for the rich tourists to visit and see how the poor live. Each tour costs $35 for a city slum and a lot more for a rural poverty tour.
Now don’t you think that’s clever? Sell the poor as a tourist attraction. We have worse slums than the Chinese can boast about. Just stroll through any Indian city and you’ll see slums that will make a Chinese tour guide’s mouth water with envy. We can boast of sewage water for drinking (that’s if they’re a rich slum), non-existent drainage, no sewage (apart from drinking), no schools, skinny people, no lighting, slush and garbage everywhere. At $30 a head (we should undercut the Chinese as this is a very competitive age) we could show them kids working in sweat shops – if they’re lucky- or in surroundings that make sweat shops look like paradise, men drunk in despair, women with too many children and all of them living on a diet of a handful of rice and kanji.
That’s only for openers. Just imagine how much money we could make off the tourists by guiding them around Bihar or Orissa or any one of our extremely poor states. Stop the air-conditioned bus. Jump off and see people eating boiled leaves, men women and children illiterate in this 21st century. See the Dalits. Now that’s something the Chinese don’t have. We could charge $75 a head for the rich tourist to see how Dalits are treated in some villages. In fact, I’m sure the Thakurs or others could put on a show of gunning them down.
I was wondering why the Chinese were having such success with their ‘See the poor’ tourist attraction. Of course, the rich have no idea how the poor live. Admittedly, most of the tourists were Americans but Americans do have a greater curiosity than other nationalities. So here they are in China, having flown business or first, staying in a five star, looking at the Great Wall and other sites. Then what? Back for a dumpling dinner? They want to know whether the poor eat dumplings, have American Express Gold cards, shop in Rodeo Drive and eat McDonalds or McChinese.
I know our slums appall tourists coming to India. But that’s because they don’t know them, haven’t lived in one, chatted to a starving man, drunk filthy water (or watch others drink as we don’t want to jeopardise their health and lose their money). We must copy the Chinese. Don’t let our tourists sink back into air-conditioned rooms in the Taj hotel, whip them out on a tour of the poor.
They’ll love our poor; it will be the last great adventure. They’ll take snaps, go back, and tell their friends in Ohio about how awful and ugly Indian poverty is. This is far better than hearsay and TV documentaries. On top of that, we coin money showing off our poor. Naturally, we won’t give the poor the tourist dollars, this would ruin them totally and might even uplift them. Just think what our politicians would do if they couldn’t spout ‘uplift the poor’ in every speech.
I believe we should test out our new tourist attraction as soon as possible so that we can start coining the money. What’s the point of showing foreigners hi-tech India? They have higher tech back home in his toilet.
No, our leaders should have him inaugurate our new ‘visit the poor’ tourists programme and charge them $35. And the rest of us will get rich quick.