Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Tour Guide

In the age of the mobile internet and gps, a tourist guide is a bit of an anachronism. All the information is already out there - the history, the details, the maps, the guidebooks (in many languages that too) - much more than what a human guide can hold or comprehend. All this makes the job of a guide that much difficult.

But when we went to Hampi, we hired a guide for a day. Chandru, was his name. We were not that well prepared as many others - we had read up a bit of history, read two books on Hampi and generally had some idea of the main things we wanted to see. So, we were reasonably aware.

But the way the guide brings a place alive is through stories. He told us of the Muslim invaders who destroyed the Hindu kingdom. He brought alive the palace with his vivid descriptions of the functions. He was able to bring life into the old performances. He was able to describe battle scenes with elan. He spoke about the elaborate rituals, the grand feasts, the magnificent festivals, the glorious processions and the grandness of life in the olden days.

That brought us back to a similar incident of many years back in Golconda Fort, Hyderabad. That guide was amazingly loquacious and added enough spice to many a story. Most of his stories were probably folk lore with a heavy dose of fiction and imagination - with enough masala to fill a Hindi potboiler. But yes, it was fun interacting with him - and he did know many things that were beyond what we had read about the fort.

So, a great tourist guide will tell you stories. Bring the place alive. In his descriptions, you can see the place come live before your own eyes and that is something technology cannot do, not yet.

At any rate, Hampi is one of those places which when you visit once, the experience is unlikely to not move you. The place is magnificent in its scale and grandeur. The imagination of those people who built this magnificent city and the brutality of the invaders is hard to miss. One is left with profound admiration at the geniuses who were able to conceptualize and execute such a great vision.

Truly, a giant of a learning experience...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Signages

 An example of a great signage at Hampi...Relevant, Informative and Appealing.
And seen at many places in Hampi, another one, relevant, but nothing else. Tells nothing about what is the protected monument all about...

Interesting eh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mini is the way?

Recently, I travelled on work. As part of work, I had to lug a laptop along. And I wondered if I should carry a tablet device as well while at it. After a bit of thought of carrying two devices through airport security, I decided against it and settled just for my phone.

Now my phone is a smartphone - with wifi access even in airplane mode (yes, I am not rich enough to afford international roaming). And my laptop takes about the duration of one ice age to boot - among other things. So, through the duration of the travel, I used my phone for everything - mail, twitter, skype, reading stuff - which I would have used a tablet device.

Sure, it makes for better reading etc., but other than that, the phone works just as well. And that set me thinking. The tablet is perhaps an overrated device - since one cannot do without a phone. Therefore, a phone does all what a tablet can do is much better than the other way round.

So, is a mini-tablet the way of the future?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


A city is not a museum. A lot of things about a city remain what they are -unlike a museum, where you can have travelling exhibits and themes and so on. It is a little difficult to do that for a city. By and large atleast. And cities need to be the ‘same’ in order to preserve character as they call it.

Boston is a great example of a ‘happening’ city with a deep underlying character – yet, there is only so many ways and so many times you can see a city. Why would you come to a city a second time to see and do the exact same thing? And that is what struck me this time while I walked around Boston.

I have been to Boston before and used one of the trolley bus tours to see the place. This time I opted to explore it on foot. But there are still more options to explore the city which have come up in the past few years. There is a bike (bicycle) option and there is a Segway option. The same damn city – yet some 5-6 different ways to see it. Each of those trolley tours are slightly different – there are amphibious tours, old bus style tours and so on. And this is just the city at the surface – if you have more time on your hands, you can explore the city by yourself and spend a longer time at many of the sites – some of them as much as a day or a half day depending on the depth which you want to soak it in.

We all know this by the way – I mean, a lot of cities on the tourist circuit have figured out innovative means to get people to come to their city multiple times. And yes, we in India do all we can to ensure that anyone who steps into our city by mistake does not repeat that mistake. But that is a rant for another day.

Think of this from a learning perspective. If a student could explore the same subject multiple times through various means, will stickiness go up? The more perspectives we offer, the better it is for a learner right?

Learning from Street Performers

Right outside Fanueil Hall in Boston was this set of street performers.

While I watched them, it did not immediately strike me, but as usual, I got the thought a little later.

A street performance is really, like a training. Except that, you and I, walking on the street have no obligation, much less motivation, to attend and cannot be ‘pushed’ to attend the performance. So, they have to do much more to attract and retain an audience – which for a trainer is easier, since his audience is atleast in the room. And the techniques these guys used were so simple, so good…

First, as they were about to start their performance, they get the audience to come closer – near the markers they have set up. They do this very respectfully, though at this point, many people are not even sure if they want to see the performance. They realize that.

And while doing this, one of them begins his spiel. He tells the audience (mostly whites) that they have nothing to fear from them (blacks). And they wont hurt them – atleast they cannot hurt all of them at the same time. That breaks barriers instantly. And then he asks the audience to clap and not stand with folded hands – and points to a statue – that is standing in precisely that position – again peals of laughter. Then he asks them to put their hands up – and then tells them, no it is not a robbery.

Each of these statements just endears them to the audience – sentence by sentence. And then he asks them to clap, loudly, continuously and clap if they like something or do not like something. Wry humour at its best. And he signs off by saying, don’t let us down. And that really makes you want to cheer for them.

Lovely audience connect. Now he has established the connect with the audience, got their attention and committed to their cheering his performance. And then their breathtaking routine begins…And by now, you must have realized that when the tip jar is finally circulated, they will get it filled each and every time…

Imagine us delivering training like this. Establishing a rapport. Making the audience comfortable. Delivering a breathtaking training. And getting great feedback!