Amidst India’s on-going financial crisis, across the country are taking action to uphold the country’s culture of world-class hospitality.
About two weeks ago, I found myself in Delhi with just Rs. 100 left in my pocket. I roamed in Delhi for 13 hours, queuing at several different ATM machines, sometimes for two hours at a stretch, only to get to the machine and have my card rejected. With a flight to Mumbai booked for the next morning, I needed cash.
As the sun set that day, it took with it any hope that I was clinging to of finding cash and making my flight.
It wasn’t just the prospect of missing my flight that was driving my urgency for cash; my guesthouse bill was also well over-due and I had no idea how I was going to eat that night let alone settle my accommodation fees.
Feeling completely defeated and exhausted, I went back to my guesthouse, explained to the owner that I didn’t have the money to pay her (she didn’t have the facilities to accept a card payment), and went back to my room feeling shameful.
A couple of minutes later I heard a knock on my door. I opened it to find the guesthouse owner standing there with five 100 rupee notes in her hand. “Money comes and goes,” she said. “Please make sure that you take your dinner and make it to the airport for your flight,” and she forced the notes into my hand.
After spending hours in long queues without any success, it was a local Delhi guesthouse owner who restored my faith in humanity and reminded me of why I love India.
With the majority of us experiencing, in varying degrees, the chaos and disruption to daily life triggered by the recent demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes, the simple kindness of a stranger can make all the difference. This simple, yet extremely profound gesture showed me that amidst the dim of the on-going financial turmoil, there are people all across the country keeping the flame of humanity blazing.
There are people — ordinary, local people of India who despite their own worries and anxieties and in many cases whose livelihoods are being directly and severely impacted by the recent changes, are putting their needs aside. They are continuing efforts to ensure that India continues to be a place where guest ‘is God’.
And it turns out I’m not the only one who has found myself on the receiving end of such kindness. The more I travelled (when I could get the cash to do so), the more I realised that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced such incredible kindness.
Matthew, a French tourist in Goa, after ordering a suit to be made, found that he was unable to get hold of cash to pay his tailor. His tailor, a small business owner with limited facilities, not only allowed him the option of paying with his credit card, but when that failed he simply gave Matthew the suit and told him to just pay him “whenever he could.” If that wasn’t kind enough he also offered Matthew Rs. 2,000 in cash to help him while he tried to get some cash.
Many cash-strapped tourists have experienced incredible kindness at the hands of locals during India’s recent financial crisis.
Others I’ve met have reported of locals allowing their tourist guests to use their Indian bank accounts to deposit cash or transfer funds from their overseas accounts and then taking them to the banks to withdraw it.
It’s not all about the money, money, money…
The offers of money or practical help being administered by locals is just the helpful part. It’s the moral support, the words of encouragement, the patience and understanding and the kind smiles that are being dealt to cash-strapped tourists across the country that are all showing us tourists the Indian culture of world-class hospitality.
A local business owner Abhay, from Palolem, has to stand in long queues at an ATM alongside tourists using “3-4 cards withdrawing 10k in deposits of 2k” when he himself is only able to get Rs. 2,000 per day. But he still reports how he sees it as his “duty” to not only help his nation wipe out corruption but to also ensure that the guests of India do not suffer as a consequence. And he does this all with a smile on his face.
So at a time when collectively we’re all pretty fed up with the situation and longing to see the back of it, it’s always good to be reminded that the spirit of the Indian people continues to shine through in the face of adversity. And it is exactly for this reason why I, like so many others, can’t help but keep coming back for more.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I was able to pay back the guesthouse owner in Delhi what she gave me along with what I owed (plus a little chocolatey interest).