Happy in My Skin
In Hodka, in Kutch, we faced this challenge quite early on. The men in the region still wear their traditional dress (unlike much of India which has moved to western trousers, a piece of attire totally unsuitable for our climate). When the Shaam-eSarhad resort came up, it was assumed that the staff would wear the traditional dress though it was not ordered as a uniform. With the first few urban guests we had, we soon saw the staff coming in tight blue jeans and tighter t-shirts. We were in a dilemma. All of us women had moved out of wearing our traditional costumes to adopting the salwar kameez of Punjab – how could we tell them that they could not change? We called a meeting of the tourism committee to discuss this. After much discussion, the staff agreed that the guests were coming to this corner of the globe because there was something unique here. It didn’t make sense to be ashamed of it and change to clothes that were anyway uncomfortable in the heat!
What I saw in that discussion was that we needed to encourage communities to be proud of what they had. If visitors find something that they appreciate when they travel, they should express that appreciation loudly and clearly – whether for the craft, the music, the dance, or the farming – all skills that are taken for granted by both hosts and guests. However, when guests try their hand at it, they realize the skill level that has been built up over the years even to make that simple mud pot. There is a natural shyness that inhibits guests from praising expertise when they