Vinod Kumar Singh from Lucknow is an enthusiast traveller who wants to see every nook and corner of India. First he travels to Madurai in the interiors of Tamil Nadu. He finds a guide, Kalyanasundaram, but the problem is Kalyanasundaram does not know any language apart from Tamil. This poses a communication barrier between the traveller and the guide, and compels Vinod to find another guide who can communicate in English.
This is a common scenario in states with their own predominant regional languages. The communication and cultural barrier pose a big hurdle in promoting rural tourism in India which needs to be overcome.
80 percent of Rajasthan has flourished in heritage hotels, located in the interiors of the state. Similarly, Tamil Nadu is known for its medical tourism among the South- East Asian countries. Kerala’s beautiful landscapes and inland waterways have made this state an attractive tourist destination.
States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha are known for their thousand-year old temples, heritage and beautiful landscape. Apart from Hindi heartland, every state in the country has its own regional language. For instance, if a Tamil travels to Odisha it is very tough for him to communicate with Oriya people. As Tamil Nadu has been known for anti-Hindi sentiments for decades, people in the state are far away from this widely spoken language of India.
Uma Balu, a language trainer in Chennai, who runs the organisation Sahara Asia, says that people find it tough to learn Hindi in the Tamil capital.
She says, “When I went to learn our own national language, the institute asked me to pay Rs. 100,000 for first level and Rs. 30,000 each for two more levels. In contrary, it is easy to learn any foreign language here by only spending around Rs. 10,000.”
She further says, anti-Hindi sentiments in Tamil Nadu prevent spreading Hindi language in the state, which is not very helpful for the Tamils when they travel outside the state.
Rural people who know villages better than others are incapable to communicate with outsiders in better manner, as a result guides from the cities, with little knowledge about villages, end up getting the benefits. So imparting language skills to villagers can certainly make them good tourist guides.
Though we live in the same country, we don’t know other states’ culture, and foreigners know our cultural diversity better than us. If we want to know our cultural heritage, it would only be possible by breaking the communication barrier, observes Balu.
Rural, farm and tribal tourism is an emerging trend in India. States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have been giving special focus on promoting their rural cultural heritage. “Village tourism displays the rural way of life, art, culture and heritage. It provides the source of livelihood to the local villagers who facilitate accommodation, guidance and other services to the travellers, and at the same time it allows travellers to experience rural life,” elaborates Balu.
To get the desired result; educate the illiterate people, at least the basic level of education. Once they have attained this level we can get them trained so that they do not have to depend on anything. They can be trained, at least, to do a good conversation. And this will make them better guides, given the fact that they know the place more than any others. Such training would help them in other aspects of life as well, and this can be a good way of generating employment in the rural areas.