How much should we tolerate?

Hornbill festival attracts all kinds of visitors and guests to Kisama and to Nagaland. All kinds, sadly. And they can vary from the very courteous kind who are ready to experience everything Naga, and value it, to the other kind who demanda very ‘high level’ of accommodation, food, and servility from the hotels and air bnbs that they use. The first kind of visitors are very precious and they are the reason why Hornbill has become such a successful tourist season out of which the local people try to get some benefit, by way of selling their products, or by setting up air bnbs to host guests from outside the state.  The first kind of visitors take away good experiences of the people and the place and spread the word so that it draws in more of such guests. However, the second kind give a bad name to their community and raise the question, how much should we tolerate? The recent experience of an air bnb owner with a guest was quite intolerable. The guest started to complain from the minute he set foot inside the guest house. The air bnb had made it clear that it served breakfast, but not any other meals. The guest demanded dinner after arriving at a late hour. When the host explained that dinner was not part of the offer, the guest insisted that the host provide dinner because they did not know the area. Dinner was provided. But that did not stop his demands. He kept finding fault with his surroundings. The house rules provided by the air bnb requested guests to reduce noise after ten pm. There were raised voices from the belligerent guest and his wife from their room until 1 am. The next day they left. But in the evening they tried to return to the same guest house. Fortunately, the owner could say that the room was no longer available. Incidents like this makes one question, how much should a guest house owner tolerate? If a guest behaves very badly, can the guest house owner throw them out in the middle of the night? Somehow, some visitors seem to have this opinion that our people are very backward and can be treated like they treat their servants back at home. I am sure there are travel agencies offering training to air bnbs about guest house etiquette. It is very important to do that so that unhealthy visitors do not take advantage of our hospitable culture and mistreat us in our homes. 

This festival has come a long way. Nearly twenty years ago, in the first week of December, my cousin heard a knock on her door. Two friends had arrived from Shillong saying they would spend the night on her sitting room floor, just so they could have a place to sleep and attend the festival in the daylight hours. There were not enough hotels and lodging houses then. The villages next to the festival venue had not bought into the idea of hosting out of state visitors in their houses. The idea of the festival generating income for the public living close to it had not been explored yet. Guest houses and air bnbs have grown only in the past fifteen years or so. Although it is very new for us, it does not mean we should put up with unpleasantness and downright rudeness simply because we are providing a service. When we travel outside of our state, and we use a hotel or an air bnb in another state, we are polite and courteous. For the most, we ask politely for any item we need. We do not treat the hotel employees roughly, and we do not demand for more than the facilities being offered. Any hotel would throw us out if we were shouting and disturbing other guests after ten pm. Likewise, we are entitled to expect courtesy from our guests. We do not have to tolerate rudeness or behaviour that is unacceptable in any way. 

As the host community, we should not hesitate to offer a helping hand when we see visitors in trouble. There was a case of an inebriated female tourist some years ago. We should have been the first persons to offer help and protection in such situations, not take photos. There will be many more situations when we will be challenged to act to assist or protect our visitors. May they return with warm memories of our hospitality and may they leave behind for us an experience of their courteous behaviour.