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Brand India

Want to know India, the way Indians do? Pick up Rough Guides. Kevin Fitzgerald gives ANUJ KUMAR the route map.

HELLO INDIA: Kevin Fitzgerald reveals it all about Rough Guides in New Delhi. Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

`INDIANS ARE not backpackers. Most of them are `cultured' travellers, who can afford to stay in the best hotels. That's why we are here,' maintains Kevin Fitzgerald, Managing Director, Rough Guides Limited, publishers of the internationally best-selling travel guides, who have now opened an editorial office in India as well. However, Kevin accepts he has not done any research on Indian travellers. "We have done detailed research in London, and New York and have been judged as the most suitable for the culture travellers by the focus groups unlike Lonely Planet. The reason is we hire authors instead of contributors, who have a comprehensive knowledge of the place and could give opinions on restaurants and hotels. If a restaurant is opposite to the Railway Station we will list it but why the restaurant two blocks away is better than the first one will also find mention in the Rough Guide," explains Kevin.

On choosing India, Kevin remarks, "We were looking to expand our business to Asia and India is the best place. I am so happy with the skilled work force, printing and economics here that soon we hope to print other titles here as well."For the time being Rough Guides have come up with Guides to India, South India, Goa and Nepal. Kevin lists Goa, Rajasthan, Kerala, Nepal and Agra as the hot spots in the Indian subcontinent. "Goa and Nepal have happened in the last five years, Rajasthan and Agra were always there and Kerala is the latest edition. The good thing is tourism industry is spreading in India. Earlier there were just big palaces in Rajasthan. Today people are using their four-five room havelis for this purpose. You get a homely environment there."

An important chapter on India deals with tricksters, terming New Delhi Station as the scam centre, and health hazards that travellers have to deal with. It includes the infamous Delhi belly to inoculations required before landing in the land, fighting to put its mythological, serpent-friendly image behind. Bursting the balloon of being termed as cultured, Kevin narrates his experiences in India. "I went to Pushkar recently. There, two Brahmins wanted to bless me near the holy lake. I said fine. But once they were through their rituals, they asked for 40 pounds. I refused because I know the country well but those who are first-timers easily fall in their trap," narrates Kevin. "It is going to be included in our next edition of Rough Guide on India. But it's the same everywhere. Even at London station, you will find charlatans duping travellers by telling them that their hotel has burnt down and they have to shift to another hotel."

Interestingly, there are guidelines for gay adventurer as well. The guide terms it as an illegal activity in India with the website even mentioning the 10-year imprisonment clause but surprisingly it doesn't prevent the publishers from listing sites and addresses where the voyagers could explore their ilk. "We don't want to be judgemental. We have given both the facets." That's what a guide is all about?

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