I have a proposal (actually, my friend the professional alliterater Deesh Mariwala, alleged by one publication to be the most charming man in Chennai, has a proposal, but I’m the one with the column). As a passionately patriotic poetess, I’ve spent a preposterous period of time pondering the position of the paise. Poor punnery aside, one doesn’t need to know a lot about economics to know that we need to get some foreign inflow into this country pronto.
So here’s the deal: what can we offer tourists that no other place on earth can quite replicate?
Why, the Great Indian Guilt Trip, of course.
The Great Indian Guilt Trip allows tourists an authentic experience. A package tour with customizable options, the price includes full-time residency with a bona fide, certified Indian Family. This is the single unique factor that makes this Trip indelible in the memory of the vacationer.
As an honorary member of an Indian Family, the wide range of experiences one can savour include: wedding, funeral, divorce, runaway hysterical young woman’s elopement, visit by relatives settled abroad, discovery that eldest son has been in the same room as a cigarette, serious illness in the matriarch that has been recurring for twenty years (usually in presence of daughters-in-law) and at least one suicide attempt.
More adventurous travellers can also sample of these experiences: only son coming out as gay, unwed heiress daughter coming out as pregnant and house-arrest of the girl who wants to be in films.
Of course, given that we’re the bunnies who gave the world the Kama Sutra, the Taj Mahal and the overpopulation crisis, we must sate the palates of those looking for romance, masala ish-style. The intrepid female traveller may particularly enjoy the experience of looking in the general direction of a random male and discovering herself to be engaged. Male travellers may like the prospect of liaising with beautiful women who are as free with their tears of remorse over their technical (always regeneratable) virginities as they are with their amorous advances.
In fact, the Great Indian Guilt Trip is so genuine that all passports are confiscated upon entry into The Home. Getting them back is easy. Usually, one only need wait between two and three decades before relatives in positions of authority die. Alternately, the traveller who longs for the truly holistic experience may suitably assimilate themselves into The Family and rise to an authority position themselves. However, it must be noted that most participants are so convinced by the experience that the concept of the passport and its uses is often forgotten by this time.
The Great Indian Guilt Trip is a complete journey. Unlike most packages that unceremoniously dump visitors at the airport, the send-off we give is truly fantastic. As a nation of many customs, we offer the finest farewells, typically in the range of cremation, burial, and being laid to rest at a Tower of Silence. Further options include a last leisurely ride on the Ganges. Most options involve an embarrassment of flowers. All options involve wailing, chest-beating, and professionally penned dialogues. Masochists may also enjoy the sati option.
Some will call the Great Indian Guilt Trip the experience of a lifetime. We, generally, call it life.
Since even dirty old bachelors are no exception in one of our great traditions, that of respecting one’s elders, and since I am about to save the economy of India by spinning off on his idea, some credit is due. So ladies, I have Deesh’s number (and gentlemen, here are my apologies). If you want it, I’ll throw in my entire family as a special bonus. No strings. No guilt. I promise.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement.