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...

1 comment:

  1. What was really cool about the guide also was the odd details he would point out to us alongwith the stories. Heartening to see that oral storytelling tradition beats the written word and technology :)

    What a trip - with and without guide - looking forward to many more!

    looking forward to many more


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