New Delhi: A journey to "Incredible India" may be anything but if the tourist in question decides to stop in Delhi.
Since last month's brutal gang-rape of a young student on a moving bus in Delhi, the government and the police have begun implementing pieces of a repair manual to make the city safer. Buses and the metro will be manned by policemen and women in plain clothes. More police vans will patrol the roads at night. A helpline -181- has been launched for women in distress, with mixed results. Often, calls are about property disputes. And sometimes, those who call can't reach anyone, or are transferred to a police station. Not exactly the quick-fix it was designed to be.
You Mi Nam, 22, isn't aware of much of this. She is in Delhi from Korea, and hopes the holiday will help her gauge if India is where she should enroll for a course in media studies.
Nam agreed to film on hidden camera her experience of a night out in Delhi. We followed her so that we could intervene if needed.
She began by waiting at a bus stop in South Delhi at 9.15 pm.
Within minutes, two cars slowed down in front of Nam at the bus stop. Each waited for a minute before driving off. The presence of a police picket just around the corner perhaps deterred them from making any further advances. 15 minutes later, a young man who had been standing at the bus stop, began pacing in front of her before turning to her. "You make me happy, I make you happy," he said.
Understandably, Nam had no idea what he was talking about. "What?" she asked. He responded by asking if she speaks Hindi, or belongs to Nagaland. "No," she said, "I am Korean." The man then said to her, "I have a big xxxx... let me drop you to your stop."
By now several people had "checked out Nam" as she later described it. All this activity however also attracted the attention of a Delhi constable posted just at the corner. He came over and asked Nam if she needed an autorickshaw or a bus. Nam said she was waiting for a bus and so the constable started to flag down all the buses. By now the young man who had sexually harassed her had vanished. Finally Nam boarded her bus and went home.
"I felt really scared'. Nam told us later that night. "The man was obviously wanting to pick me up," she added. "The policeman was very reassuring though, seeing him the man went away very quickly".
The next morning, Nam and the hidden camera headed to Cannaught Place to do some shopping. But getting there was not easy. As Nam hailed down an auto, she soon discovered one of Delhi's real pain points. At least two drivers wanted Rs 150 rupees for a journey which would have cost not more than Rs 40 by meter.
Nam then headed to the New Delhi railway station where she proceeded to purchase a ticket to Agra. The city of the Taj Mahal is on most tourists' "Must-do lists" and here, everyone wants to cash in. While being informed at the reservation window by the booking clerk that there is a separate window for foreigners on the first floor, Nam is approached by at least two different touts. Each offering a confirmed ticket to her. In fact our cameras record the entire conversation as they try and convince her to buy the ticket through them.
"Railway stations cannot sell tickets to foreigners, they have to buy it from agents," claims one balding tout. Another offers her a ticket for Rs 3200 rupees or the equivalent of almost 58 dollars. But a ticket in the first- class air-conditioned coach should not cost more than 23 dollars. "That's more than double!" says Nam. When she asks for a receipt, the tout says that's not possible because some of the money is "under the table."
Tourists all over the world need to be careful, says Nam and there are several things that all of us have to be aware of no matter which country you travel to. She says that in the UK where she has studied for several years, con men try and take advantage of those who look like they are from another country and may not be aware of the local rules or prices.
So has all of this left her with a bad taste of India? Will she still continue with her plans of studying in the country?
"I have been approached by con men, but also numerous other ordinary Indians who have opened up their hearts with kindness and generosity to me," she says, adding "despite the language barrier, many have stopped to help me with directions, even in broken English."
She also adds that while she will definitely be coming back to India, more women bus drivers, women policemen and signs in English particularly around the railway station and other tourist-heavy areas would go a long way in making the journey for foreigners safer and more enjoyable.