The ‘TOUT’ and ‘STARE’ question.

#1 Feb 12th, 2004, 10:50
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  • beach is offline
#1
(Thought of posting here also as this appears to be a subject of general interest. I first posted this at TT and this is a slightly modified version.)


A thousand people have asked this simple question and a thousand people have answered it also.
But still it is not explained or understood fully.

I believe it’s not possible also. The charm of India experience lies there in the ambiguity. Had it been possible to explain and convey the truth, it would be like going to a movie or theater knowing the full story including the climax.

The main trouble lies in the cultural conflict even when you start the preparation itself. The west looks at India culture through their customs and yardsticks. Then imagine how much it is out from yours. And figure out the probable counter strategies. This is a sure way to failure.

Pestering by salesmen (err..touts) is how that is in India. A housewife here in India faces the same ‘problem’ when she shops at the vegetable or clothe bazaar. A tout is not her enemy to be avoided but a vendor to deal with. She knows how to buy from them and how to deny them at her own wish. I’m not talking about any macho woman who can breathe fire but any ordinary girl at an Indian home. This is business as usual. Nobody wants a change.

In the west people are programmed to react and to be explicit. In India it is not. No deals are closed forever. Negotiation can continue even after the sale! Indians accept ambiguity easily than a bad deal, which is explicit. Probably the western businessmen (should) know this concept more than a tourist in dealing with India.

I know a foreign tourist who used to get the taxi fare in writing (on his notebook!) from the taxi drivers at the street! It was indeed a bizarre thing as far as the Indian way of dealing with a taxi driver is concerned. He was a businessman (yes, you guessed it) and fed up with the ‘changing’ rates. The drivers quote one rate at the beginning and ask for a different rate at the end. But this (showing the rate the driver has written!) was no solution as there could be argument at the end about the ‘exact’ destination agreed upon! Indians know how to deal with this vagueness instinctively.

It’s not an everyday battle for the local people. To the west it may appear so. No Indian comeback home ‘triumphant’ or ‘defeated’ from the bazaar.

No local newspapers or forums discuss column after column on ‘How to negotiate and buy vegetables successfully!’

The Indian female also faces the same ‘stare’ at a public setup. But she knows how to deal with it. Learn to ignore it without even you knowing it! She take it though brain rather than through heart. I’m not recommending to ‘cut-off’ from the public interactions. Use your judgment based on the situation.

It is the flip side of the Indian male. People say it is because of the ‘sex starved’ society. I do not subscribe to this theory. If so the society would have found a way out long back to this menace. I could not find out the real reason.

The genesis lies somewhere else. Father is the ‘in-charge’ of boys and mother for girls in an Indian family. Is this the reason? May be the TV, Cinema.. etc. I really do not know.

The problem at a tourist spot is a slightly scaled up version of the explained situations. A tout’s intention is to hard sell rather than to loot. He tries to exploit the ignorance of the tourist, whether Indian or foreign. It’s rare news that robbers attacked a foreign tourist. Nevertheless it’s not a security paradise. You need to be prudent as in any alien cities in the world.

It is not a question of what you have to sacrifice to experience the charm. There is nothing to be sacrificed. All you need is to know is how to react and more importantly not to react. To readjust and adapt yourselves to the new environment.

Please remember in India not reacting is also a reaction. Not taking a decision is also a decision!

It would go a long way in knowing the ‘physiology and anatomy’ of the Indian society before you start the ‘operation’.

It is a family centric system in contrast to the society centric system of the west. I’ve explained this in my article ‘The India Confusion’ earlier. That is why the Indian homes are clean and the streets are dusty. That is why a man and woman (read as husband and wife) attract no trouble in comparison to a female traveler. The society sees a ‘grammar mistake’ in the later case. A husband-wife-child trio attracts almost infinite respect in a social setup.

Understand the India elephant to the possible level you can. Then react according to your natural instinct. You’ll be fine in India.


beach
#2 Feb 12th, 2004, 13:06
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  • pooch is offline
#2
Made a lot of sense
#3 Feb 12th, 2004, 13:53
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#3
Quote:
Originally posted by beach
It is not a question of what you have to sacrifice to experience the charm. There is nothing to be sacrificed. All you need is to know is how to react and more importantly not to react. To readjust and adapt yourselves to the new environment.
I disagree, beach. I do have to sacrifice some enjoyment, because I am who I am and I can't change that to the extent you are asking me to. You don't have to enjoy everything about a culture. Wherever you go you have to take the bad with the good, not pretend that the bad is good. Touts are an evil to me, no matter how you rationalize them. I would enjoy India a lot more without them, and I don't think the culture would lose much without them. Obviously you can argue that the good sides of Indian culture inevitably create touts, and I accept that. But I still dislike them, and dislike them intensely, and when I'm not in the mood I often wish I were somewhere else, Nepal, Thailand, or anywhere where I'm treated with more 'respect' by Western standards.

The fact that I still love India and its people, and I like to go back again and again, means that whatever my yardstick, to use your term, works for me. I have no interest in being Indian or worshipping Indian culture, which I find delightful but majorly flawed. I enjoy what India has to offer me, its magic, its wonders, its qualities, its constant surprise, but I am not fooled into thinking that everything about it is wonderful.
#4 Feb 12th, 2004, 17:18
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#4

Unhappy Is this evil?

Tomi

Ok it's only what happened to 1 person - but it's not like I know the stories of any others.

I asked a friend about school - did he like it? He said he only did four classes, when his father was drunk his uncle would come and take him out of school to fish because they needed enough people for the boat. He explained that is why he's stupid.

When he was 14 his father finally had drank himself to death but he had 2 younger sisters and he had to keep the family bacause his brother ran off. He knew how to fish so that's what he did, but while he described it - having to keep a family of 3, you could hear the logic he had then at the age of 14. He went fishing when the sea was good and when it was bad, he took more chances than anyone else.

He described watching for where the water goes a little bit still and black, that was how he knew where the fish were. Once he watched it too closely and missed the markers for the habour where he was not supposed to go. He was only 16 and when the army caught him, they made sure he never did it again.

A friend who he trusted told him to learn all the white languages and work with the tourists. It was about being safe and still being able to feed his family. So he learned.

While he described how he 'studied' it made me laugh and also think very long and hard. He had to learn off the beach and he didn't know it was more than one language at first. This guy is about 5'2" and as soft as grease, at the time he was also only a boy. he had to learn how to approach people without them running away and how to guess those that might hit him (which he was quite good at). He said after fishing he couldn't sleep anymore because he had to 'study' but he learned quickly - very quickly. In a land where most people have to learn fast others would back up that he was even faster. By the time I knew him he could talk in 6 different languages.

First he worked on other peoples boats but he was often more popular because he could talk to everyone and was funny. Eventually the community got the cash together for his first boat. from catamaran fishermen to drivers many people put money in.

He was an absolute success, there are no leaflets his worked was touted for. He touted for himself and others touted for him, young kids liked to tout for him because the tourist got a good trip, which meant they could go back to them and would get stuff from them as well as him. Yes it was business.

He dreamed of getting enough money together for a real house and to give his sisters a good dowry and it looked like he would do it too. But then a bomb went off at the airport, no tourists came any more, those that did he said didn't want to see the crocodiles. Both he and the community that had set him up went bust. Back to fishing.

As tourism picked up again he started over, he had to learn some languages all over agian but he said it was easy the second time. He was managing to do it - just.

When SARS and Iraq happened sadly his boat also broke, with no tourists again, his belief it would be like before and a much older now broken boat - he gave up.

For him there are few alternatives for making a living accept making up the numbers on other fishing boats and he's no longer fit or well enough to do that.

So maybe if it was your wish to have one less tout in some way here it'll more than likely happen. If it was your wish for him never to have touted the way he was going he would have been likely to die at sea - a desperate 16 yr old does not make a very wise fisherman.

Whatever happens he has never been evil - he was and is a worthwhile, clever, funny, kind human being and the same community that also tout their trade, that helped set him up, are still trying depserately to stop a young man just giving up.

Personally I don't want a world with one less tout in it.
Mine's not as clever as yours!
#5 Feb 12th, 2004, 21:38
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  • mdchachi is offline
#5
We've got the "all touts are evil" viewpoint and "all touts are sacred". I think the real answer lies in the middle. Especially when this word is used to describe both people simply trying to get your business and those trying to scam or even intimidate you into dishing out cash.
#6 Feb 12th, 2004, 22:45
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#6
" It’s not an everyday battle for the local people. To the west it may appear so. No Indian comeback home ‘triumphant’ or ‘defeated’ from the bazaar. "

I disagree with this Maybe not defeated over the price of vegetables, but certainly triumphant after any good bargaining session..................
Reject violence.
#7 Feb 12th, 2004, 22:59
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#7
mdchachi,
I'm not sure if you meant me or not - but I don't think ALL touts are sacred, I don't think any tout is sacred. It's just a way of doing business and I wrote the above because I see nothing inherently evil in that. I see more evil in hating a whole group of people and condsidering them unworthy of respect before they've done anything wrong.
#8 Feb 13th, 2004, 01:11
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#8

Thumbs up

I think that Beach has said some very important things about the cross-cultural conflict/frusteration many people experience when visiting a place much different from their home. In going to another society, we have to be prepared for these "conflicts," and not think poorly of a people because of our own idiosyncrasies.

I will admit that I was very annoyed at times by the "touts," and I think part of the reason for my frustration is that I felt like a target since I am non-Indian. I think others get frusterated, too, because we don't necessarily see Indians touting other Indians (not that it doesn't happen).
#9 Feb 13th, 2004, 01:37
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  • Tomi is offline
#9
Quote:
Originally posted by Dayglowhamster
So maybe if it was your wish to have one less tout in some way here it'll more than likely happen.
........
I see more evil in hating a whole group of people and condsidering them unworthy of respect before they've done anything wrong.
Dayglow, I'm quoting from two of your posts. There must be a high pressure system or something, because I was just hostile to someone else, and I now find you hostile towards me in these two remarks.

How can you possibly accuse me of wanting someone dead? Gosh, maybe you didn't mean it, but that is what you are saying.

And I am not hating touts BEFORE they've done anything wrong, but AFTER they have repeatedly pestered me during the 4 months I've spent in India. I don't hate them PERSONALLY, I'm just having an allergic reaction to a profession that can make my life miserable. I have the same reaction to telemarketers here in the US, even though I know that they are often single mothers who can't leave the house and get other employment, or poor people in sweatshops, often working abroad for pennies.
#10 Feb 13th, 2004, 02:02
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#10
I didn't accuse you - I said 'IF'.

"Touts are an evil to me, no matter how you rationalize them. I would enjoy India a lot more without them, and I don't think the culture would lose much without them."

Seemed a reasonable 'if'. they are a group of people and the above simply made me think you 'MAY' not see them that way.

For what it's worth I'm glad I had it wrong.
#11 Feb 13th, 2004, 16:41
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I’m not the tout’s advocate. An intruding tout is indeed a mood spoiler. I do not support the aggressive ones and the scam artists either.

But we never complain about the companies pouring gallons of cold colored water down our throat. Billions and billions of money (output of human effort) is paid for it. What good has it brought to the mankind?
Almost all the transnational corporations are gigantic touts with raw greed. At least they do touting as a part of their survival. We never feel frustrated because it is done ‘decently’ and professionally.

I sit and kill the unsolicited emails everyday like a monkey killing lice!

Every now and then a moron appear on the TV adv to sell me a car or a credit card. He has been telling me the same funny thing a thousand times. He says he sponsors the weather forecast for me! What the hell I paid for it. He is deaf and rude, jumping into my living room uninvited. There is no way I can tell him that I don’t want to buy his thingummy and get lost. We sort of accepted him as part of life.

A tout at street is raw and clumsy. He doesn’t have the sophistication to suck my blood without me knowing it. We feel distracted and angry with him like at a mozze flying around and searching for a nice place to land.
It is not possible to “clean” places of touts. I agree that they are not part of the ‘culture’ without which the culture is incomplete. But they are very much part of the land and the system.

It’s the fact of the matter; he owns the Taj Mahal!
#12 Feb 26th, 2004, 01:06
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#12
Quote:
Originally posted by beach

I sit and kill the unsolicited emails everyday like a monkey killing lice!



Best quote of the week...
#13 Feb 26th, 2004, 20:37
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#13
Tomi, Now I know why you are angry with the touts!!!
I just noticed it at the photo you attached with your profile
#14 Feb 26th, 2004, 21:16
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#14
I have to admit , beach, that I love those samosa vendors that pop out of nowhere everywhere. They are excluded from my rants. I even enjoy when the same guy comes back 3 times in the same train station, hoping I've changed my mind.

It's silly to want to 'purge' a culture of the things that bother you, isn't it? It's like an eco system. You get rid of the bugs and you lose the birds.
#15 Feb 27th, 2004, 04:42
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  • neoncarrot is offline
#15
Quote:
Originally posted by Beach
It’s not an everyday battle for the local people. To the west it may appear so. No Indian comeback home ‘triumphant’ or ‘defeated’ from the bazaar.
Oh yes they do! My landlord manged both in the same day last summer. He bought a "half price" electrical juicer, from a guy on the street giving it the hard sell, which he "triumphantly" brought home. Within half an hour and kitchen walls covered in apple pulp and air filled with the smell of burning motor windings he felt thoroughly "defeated". I find when it comes to shopping and markets and relative successes, my Indian friends have about the same triumph/defeat strike rate as we do.

Quote:
Almost all the transnational corporations are gigantic touts with raw greed. At least they do touting as a part of their survival. We never feel frustrated because it is done ‘decently’ and professionally.
Yes they are touts, but I for one feel enormously irritated by their wheedling fluffy sales pitch, quite as much as (like Tomi) it gets up my nose when an Indian tout just wont let it drop. The MNCs, especially the fizzy water merchants do NOT do it decently, they exploit quite revolting and gullible parts of the human psyche to sell what is essentially useless. Indian touts, especially the skilled ones, try to exploit similar things in us westerners. Guilt, gullibillity or simply the desire to make them go away.

I feel towards touts exactly as Tomi does. I fully accept that they need to make a living, just as I do, and they are welcome to make me aware of what they are selling once. But more than once is to my soft whitey sensibilities is too often - just like the little bastard who used to come round knocking the door three times a week in London selling Sky TV, or the Electricity board guy trying to sell me Gas, both of whom got exactly the same response an aggressive or persistent tout in India would, except that in India I wouldnt use the hindi equivalent of F*** off.
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