When I started working, no one in my family had heard of a woman tourist guide, but now it’s quite common. In fact, people feel safer travelling with us and take us more seriously. I have a degree in history. I was given a licence by the Archeological Survey of India 15 years ago. I chanced upon the opportunity to be a guide while looking at options to support my husband financially.
People are often fascinated by my work. In fact, my daughter got married recently and the boy’s parents were more interested in talking to me than my daughter. People are initially shocked to find out that I am a tourist guide, and then want to hear stories of my travels and the people I meet.
Tourist guides are more professional and qualified than the ‘Raju guide’ stereotype of Bollywood. There are a few hangers-on around tourist places like Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Chandni Chowk who are taxi drivers and claim to be guides as well. But the average qualification of any licensed tourist guide is at least a post-graduate degree and knowledge of one foreign language. I can speak in French and German too.
Every tourist is looking for an unusual experience. I recently took a bunch on a trip to Madhya Pradesh and they wanted to visit only the lesser known forts in places like Ujjain and the Bundelkhand belt. I really had to pull out my old text books, comics about Maharaja Vikramaditya Singh and several such books to update myself, as they wanted a ‘cultural’ experience.
Our services depend on the kind of tourists we are escorting. For example, many tourists, mainly Indians, are more interested in shopping. So, we spend more time in markets and do the regular tourist attractions. Some want a more offbeat experience. The French are the most difficult to deal with—they are uptight and snobbish.
(The person is a licensed tourist guide, working in Delhi for the past 15 years)
As told to Aanchal Bansal