Lostinasia's "discomforting stuff" report
lostinasia
India > India Travel Basics > India Travel > Scams and Annoyances in India
#1
| Lost In Asia

Lostinasia's "discomforting stuff" report

Just got back from a month in Northern India, time to try build up a little karma by providing info to a forum that helped me lots before my trip. The below follows no particular organization.

First off, forget the hype. It's nowhere near as bad as people make it out to be. That being said...

Scams: someone threw shit on my shoe! I couldn’t believe it—I thought this was just an urban myth! This was in a pedestrian underpass at Connaught Place, and of course there was the shoeshine boy to point it out. I didn’t take him up on his offer to clean my shoes. That shit remained on my shoe for a couple of hours, and got a few more cleaning offers, and, intriguingly and quite nicely, apologies on behalf of India from a few people. To be honest I was more delighted by the experience--wow! It really happens! (Cleaning it with tissues back at the guesthouse wasn't easy, either.)

I think I got conned in Khajuraho when I paid 250 Rp to burn a CD—everywhere else later was about half that, but it was the first time I’d ever done that in my life, so I had no idea, and those moments of course are when you get conned. As far as I'm aware that's the only time I got overcharged more than 10-20 rupees.

The self-attaching guides were high on my list of annoyances. Occasionally they were useful—often they’d unlock doors to the nice paintings in forts (although I’m just a little suspicious about those locks: hadn’t I just bought an admission ticket?!), or guide me to passages I wouldn’t have found. The ones in cities or at obvious tourist destinations: “Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh.” “What your country?” “Uh huh.” “Sir, did you hear me?” “Uh huh.” I was probably ruder to them than to anyone else.

Answering “What your country?” with “Taiwan!” was surprisingly effective at making people go away. It’s kind of true—I’ve lived in Taiwan for a few years—but all the touts had no idea how to respond.

Bathrooms boys in airports were really annoying! I’d finish my business, and they’d push in front of me to wave their hands under the automatic faucet so the water would be running for me, they’d reach across me the press the soap dispenser, and then they’d be standing there with a stretch of toilet paper that would have left flakes of paper all over my hands. One asked for a 50 Rp tip in payment for getting in my way and just being a hassle. They didn’t get anything, mainly because they totally ignored the Indians going to the bathroom and only devoted their attention to the foreigners. Otherwise I'd have given them the 3-5 Rp or so that I usually gave to bathroom attendants elsewhere (assuming the bathroom was moderately clean).

The touts were nowhere near as bad as I expected—I was actually surprised by how mild they were. Bali, Sumatra, and the Philippines in 1998 all had more hassle. (Lovina in Bali was the worst I’ve ever seen.) The one time I got seriously annoyed was at Agra train station, when I walked past car taxi and auto rickshaw ranks—and by then had collected two reasonably well-dressed & pushy young men—and went up to the cycle rickshaws. I started talking to one of the cycle rickshaw drivers—an older guy in bedraggled clothing, obviously nowhere near as comfortable financially as the two dolts flanking me. So then these two touts started angrily shouting at the cycle rickshaw driver, and shouting at me, that he was going to rip me off and he didn’t know where he was going and blah blah blah. I was absolutely disgusted—these two men were obviously doing so much better than this older guy, and here they were ripping into him for politely waiting in line. After that I had a horrible bias against auto rickshaw drivers and tried my hardest to go with the cycle rickshaws. (Admittedly, the guy didn’t actually know where my guesthouse was, but that was very quickly solved by asking a pedestrian just outside the train station.)

The people with shops are certainly creative! I was talked to by four different people in Udaipur who gave me, “Oh, Canada? I have a show in Burnaby/ Quebec/ Toronto/ Vancouver next week—our show here is just finishing today.” They never got me in a store; books were the only things I bought on my trip.

In both Varanasi and New Delhi I had people from my hotel waiting for me with a sign. It certainly made my life easier. I had to laugh later in Agra, when a bunch of us “cool backpackers” were chatting with a dignified older couple. All of us young ‘uns had arranged airport pickup in Delhi; these two sixty something people had taken a public bus from the airport and had a hoot. God I hope I age that well.

Always tell the driver you have a reservation; I often told them I was meeting my friend there. Always make sure they take you to the hotel you want—there are lots of “_______ Havelis.”

Jodhpur bus terminal was just weird. The bus pulled up, and a shouting swarm ran up, and all of us on board thought “Oh no, here we go…” Three of us waited for everyone else to get off, then when we got off—the touts ignored us! They were all just shouting at each other and ignoring the tourists! Like they had some incredibly short attention span and had forgotten why they were all there.

A sadder note: poverty. Actually, again, this proved not as bad as I feared: ok, Rajasthan isn’t rich and Uttar Pradesh is a pretty good lesson in how horribly government can mismanage a place, but nowhere I saw seemed as bad as Manila. Only in Jaipur did I see much “street poverty”—people on the side of the street who obviously had no home. I’m sure Delhi has that too, but I didn’t see it. (I gather Mumbai and Kolkata are different.)

Begging: it’s there, but again, I’ve (sadly) seen worse. I did give money to a few widows and some of the disabled at temples. I’m looking for a charity to give some money to now—although I gave money to some obviously needy beggars, I know I didn’t really help them that much. I suspect most of the money just goes to gangsters who “license” the people to beg in different spots.

I did NOT give “Pens? Rupees? Chocolate? Your country’s coins?” to any children. The pens get sold in the markets; I had a couple of kids show me Canadian coins and complain they were useless, and could I change them for rupees? Forget it folks, they’re not interested in souvenirs or mementoes of their Canadian friends. (If you're well off the beaten track, the story is probably different.) (Another post somewhere has suggested giving fruit, and I like that idea.)

I DID have fun with the kids and my digital camera. They'd run up and shout "One photo", and I would, perhaps unwisely, take a photo and then show it to them--which delighted them. Sometimes they asked for money; if they seemed serious, I'd just erase the photo and try to show them I'd erased it (not sure how much that sunk in!), if they weren't too serious it was no problem. It all seemed to be fun. Note: this is TOTALLY different from the costumed guards and musicians and snake charmers and whatever else. Some of those guys make their living by posing for photos, and they're providing a service. The kids are just goofing off, and I really enjoyed the chance to help them be kids for a few minutes. I didn't think I was somehow "ripping them off" by taking their photo.

A Jain temple in Jaisalmer: a big lock box under the altar said “Please put donations in this box; do not give to temple priests.” A priest upstairs asked for a donation. I smiled and said I’d give one downstairs. Later, he appeared beside me downstairs, and placed his donation plate in front of me—covering the money slot on the lock box! I smiled and gently moved the plate aside, putting some money in the box. He didn’t smile back. Of course, the money in the lock box probably just goes to some bigger fish who’s hopelessly corrupt.

One of the more dispiriting things I’ve seen while traveling: on a bus to Kumbalgarh, a big group of mothers and children got on. The kids were so cute! They were too shy to talk to me, and they kept looking at me with big smiles. Then, sigh, their mothers started whispering to them: “One rupee, one pen!” With enough coaching, the kids started on the standard script. In 30+ countries, this was the first time another passenger has EVER begged to me on public transport. Oh yeah, the conductor was also telling me how poor his family was and how much he needed money. That was an unwelcome first as well—the bus conductor asking for money beyond the ticket.

Another discomforting thing: general filth: the cleaner cities have open sewers; the dirtier ones don’t even have that. Varanasi LOOKED about as I expected, but the stench was an unwelcome surprise. Cow dung everywhere. I was quite happy in Udaipur when I walked down an alley choked with cow dung smoke—you see, I first had smelt that odour in Varanasi, and part of my brain linked it to human bodies burning (which I didn’t linger long enough to smell anyway—Varanasi had plenty to fascinate me without sticking around at the Burning Ghats for very long), and I was pleased that that alley finally broke the link, because it was getting really disturbing! It rained while I was in Varanasi and walking around after that was one of the more disgusting things I’ve done. Normally you can easily make out the green slime of the cow dung against the brown of the mud, but that morning everything was a smeared out greenish brown. Yuck yuck yuck.

With the wonderful exception of one young man in Varanasi, everyone who was friendly to me on the street was trying to sell me something. I was usually polite but kind of cold; a lot of tourists just ignore the touts, but I feel like scum if I do that (ok, it still happens at the end of some days…). I generally found that a smile and “No thank you” worked well for me; I got no more hassle than others. Unfortunately the only times I had fun conversations with local people were on transport or in guesthouses, and that was sad and unlike other countries.

Lostinasia's Gizmo report after one month in India.

Lostinasia's packing report after one month in India.

Reporting after a month in India (transport).

Edited by steven_ber to add links to other threads.

20 Replies

#2
| Member
Thanks for taking the time to give all the tips.
By the way, I too had shit thrown onto my shoe in Connaught place - in 1987!! Had a repeat performance of this trick at Agra station about 3 weeks ago, and like you I (almost) enjoyed it, to find that this old scam is still alive and well!!
#3
| Maha Guru Member
Funny, the google-generated ads for this thread, at least when I first viewed it, were, India Adventures (travel) and Save on Bathroom Tissue (discount retail).
#4
| Lost In Asia
Save on Bathroom Tissue?! That is hilarious! I've got to pay more attention to those ads... I'm now imagining someone hauling around a 10-pack of toilet tissue rolls around India... no harm in being prepared!

"Guaranteed to clean anything off any kind of shoe! No matter what they throw at you!"
#5
| Retired Admin

Originally posted by: lostinasiaScams: someone threw shit on my shoe! I couldn’t believe it—I thought this was just an urban myth! This was in a pedestrian underpass at Connaught Place, and of course there was the shoeshine boy to point it out. I didn’t take him up on his offer to clean my shoes. That shit remained on my shoe for a couple of hours, and got a few more cleaning offers, and, intriguingly and quite nicely, apologies on behalf of India from a few people. To be honest I was more delighted by the experience--wow! It really happens! (Cleaning it with tissues back at the guesthouse wasn't easy, either.)



Raise your hand if you have had the 'shit on the shoe experience'
People think we make this stuff up.

Where was I when you posted all these great tips? I missed reading them at that time, but enjoyed them now going back through and reading them all.

Some excellent tips and advice and I gave them all an excellent rating (note to others to rate good threads).

I would suggest to many 'virgins' to read through your reports.

Really good stuff there. :ThumbsUp
#6
| Lost In Asia
A slight variation on the question: has anyone SPOTTED the person doing it? Actually seen the phantom throw happen? And were there any consequences?
#7
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: indiamikeRaise your hand if you have had the 'shit on the shoe experience'
People think we make this stuff up.

:ThumbsUp


Mrs'hippy met the phantom shit thrower this January in the pedestrian underpass Connaught Place, :yucky:
#8
| Member
Good post, Lostinasia!

Just out of curiousity, do they do this to women, too, or mainly just men (women's shoes don't typically need the services of a shoeshine these days)?
#9
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: traceyamGood post, Lostinasia!

Just out of curiousity, do they do this to women, too, or mainly just men (women's shoes don't typically need the services of a shoeshine these days)?



My wife was wearing sandals !,,,,,,,
They don't offer a polishing service after you've been 'phantomed', just a clean them for you.
I would imagine that given a choice, the rewards from women being hit would be better,,,,,,,
#10
| .

Originally posted by: lostinasiaA slight variation on the question: has anyone SPOTTED the person doing it? Actually seen the phantom throw happen? And were there any consequences?



Most use a turkey baster concealed in a pant-leg and use some chalky-stuff that looks like bird shit.
Attached Images
turkey baster.jpg 
#11
| Loud Noisy Bird
Is that, errm, inside information, -m2-? [whoa]
;) ;) ;)
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#12
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: indiamikeRaise your hand if you have had the 'shit on the shoe experience'
People think we make this stuff up.



They got me in Connaught Place back in 1970 when I was a greenhorn... :down: In my scruffy old boots, wasn't too concerned and didn't pay for a cleaning. Am amazed at their accuracy. Have not heard of anyone having their clothing soiled in the process. Does it ever happen to Indians or is it just foreigners?

W22
#13
| Maha Guru Member
From my experience its often shoe polish and that makes it much easier for the "cleaner". I always carry a rag and as I polished the shoe once I saw a look of streetwise admiration on the kid's face..
#14
| Account Closed by User's Request
Yeah I've been had, years ago in Paharganj. I didn't give the offender a penny!! A friend who lives in India cuaght a young boy in the act of "pooping" a tourist and gave the Kid a good hard kick in the backside.
Rugh justice? probably but my friend said it was very satisfying (he's been had several times)and the kid seemed to understand exactly what it was for and looked very chastined!!
Sanatana Dharma

www.goneindia.com
#15
| Compulsive India traveller
It never happened to me. And I've been waiting for it... :confused: