Tourism He is a post graduate in Islamic History. He is no professor but a tour guide. Priyadershini baffled, but Shagzil Khan says it’s a wonderful job!

Young and articulate, pleasant and well-informed, Shagzil Khan has chosen to walk off the beaten track. No MBA, no Investment banking, no medicine or engineering, any of the regular career options for this youngster but a challenging profession of a tour guide. Here he introduces India in all its beauty and honesty to his guests from across the world.

For him it’s a white collar job and glamorous. “I am really proud of it and that’s why even after having the UGC Net qualification to teach in universities I chose this job of a tour guide,” says 33-year-old Shagzil , a post graduate in Islamic history. “It’s an exciting career but what I lament is that the profession is not given its due by society. It’s really a job only for the qualified,” he adds. For him every Indian knows something about India but that is not enough to become a tour guide, “for the guide is the first cultural ambassador of the country,” he believes.

So what are the criteria to be in this field?

“The essential criterion for anyone interested is that he or she must be a people’s person, must be articulate and a good manager,” he says.

And how did he decide on this for a career. While working on a project on the Jew town Synagogue and concurrently at the Idiom Bookstore he found himself giving information to the curious travellers who came to the store in search of books on India and on the local monuments.

Right info

“I found that to answer all the different questions I was asked, I had to come up with the right information on the subject. I began doing my own research and found this whole interaction with travellers very challenging. I then knew I was a people’s person and that any job that requires this strength of mine will make me happy. Being a tour guide to start with was just right.”

Shagzil did a course for tour guides at the India Tourism Office on Willingdon Island and then was invited by Taj group to be a guide to the editors and journalists for the Taj magazine. But the course conducted by the Ministry of Tourism was the turning point for him. “This was really an eye opener because it was very extensive and intensive. We covered so many topics about the geography, history, culture, politics and current affairs of our country, lectured by very distinguished speakers that really speaking I fell in love with my country. Here was something, which was not delivered to the outside world in all honesty. Tour guiding, which is the most vital introduction to our country has remained secondary and lowly.”

And so from becoming a licensed guide for the four South Indian states, Shagzil started guiding tour groups across Kerala. Soon tour companies needing articulate, pleasant and reliable managers for their guests had Shagzil attending to them. “Though I am a freelancer, I hardly find time for anything else other than work during the season. I charge from Rs.1, 000-4,000 per day depending upon the kind of work required.” And Shagzil’s experiences have been colourful and varied. Working for Saga, UK, a company whose clients are fifty plus, he took an eighty-year-old couple to Rajamalai and back. “The lady was on crutches but she did wonderfully well and climbed to the top of the hill,” he recalls.

Another guest who has charmed Shagzil is Shashi Tharoor. Diplomacy and tact, sensitivity and alertness are the qualities essential to his work. In Fort Kochi Shagzil plans to take his guests on a heritage walk, a day affair when they can imbibe the spirit of the place.

And so this interaction with people from across the world has brought Shagzil in contact with several writers, journalists and photographers. “I have learnt a lot from them, shared knowledge and know-how and made wonderful friends. I am enjoying myself in this profession, which for some reason has remained in the woods. It’s time people give it a new look and approach.”

Shashi Tharoor

There are many guests who have have made an impact on Shagzil. One is Shashi Tharoor. Says Shagzil, “While in a coach to Kumarkom, I was talking about Kerala to the group of which Mr. Tharoor was a part. He exchanged places with me and began talking about Kerala. He is the perfect tour guide for our state. He explained about the red flags but pointing to the red Vodafone billboard and Coca Cola posters he said we have MNCs too! His style is inimitable.”