As Daniela’s sisters are visiting and we have travelled around quite a bit in the past couple of weeks. I am constantly reminded of a word that I quickly learned when we first got to India.
A tout would be called a solicitor in America (and what is called a lawyer in America is called a solicitor in the UK). You find these people wherever there are tourists or pilgrims; which are a form of domestic tourist here in India. They generally come in three flavors:
The Solicitor – This type of tout is usually has some knickknack or service that he (nearly always a he; rarely a she) is trying to sell. The service may be taxi or guide services if it is a tourist spot. The knickknack will often be some low budget, completely useless item that has nothing to do with the theme of the place; cheap sunglasses, cheap wooden flutes, little drums, toys, etc. Sometimes, the knickknack is something actually useful, such as fruits or jaggery. Their natural habitat is major intersections and bus stands. They’ll walk along the busses or from car to car hawking their wares. The solicitor is the least annoying form of tout and is sometimes even welcome, such as when they are offering mangoes and cucumbers to occupants of busses stopped at stands, or cars at traffic lights. There is a little girl that haunts a railroad crossing on the road between Krishnagiri and Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. She is the only source that I know of for brown jaggery, a lightly refined form of brown sugar.
The solicitor will move on if you are not interested in what they have to sell.
The Barnacle – The barnacle is a variant of the solicitor that haunts tourist places and pilgrimage sites. Unlike the solicitor, the barnacle nearly never has anything that you would actually want. No mangoes, no cucumbers and no jaggery. Instead, they have low quality knickknacks and postcards. Once they have pinned you as a potential customer, they never leave; much like a barnacle clings to a ship. No amount of the word “no” will deter them.
Sometimes you can get several barnacles at a time, all selling the same exact thing. Once you have made the mistake of being polite to them, getting the crowd to go away is nearly impossible.
The Insidious Bastard – This is by far the most annoying sort of tout. They try the friendly approach where they just cling to you and socialize; at least at first. Ostensibly, they are being “helpful” and “friendly”. Since they might actually be someone who is just friendly and curious about the foreigners, you are reluctant to tell them to get lost. Somewhere along the line, they will ask for money of course. If they can actually provide a service that you are willing to pay for, then fine. Usually, they are just leeches that lower your enjoyment of the time/place, actually know less about the history of a place than you do if you did your homework and will later demand an outsized payment (at least from foreigners) for “guide services”.