A local and a tourist may be both interested in a place but it may be for very different reasons. A case in point is a commentary that this newspaper carried ‘Hornbill: The Grand Illusion’ written by a local, and a response called ‘A reader’s response’ by a tourist. One difference between a local and a tourist is that if the later does not like the place, he can pack and leave and never come again. But a local does not have that liberty because the place is his home and that is where he belongs. A tourist does not need to have any connection to the place. But not so for the local, everything that happens in the place affects him.
The tourist here was not interested in the context. He was only interested in what he experienced during the 10 days festival period. It doesn’t concern him what lies behind or beneath the spectacle of Hornbill festival. But for the local, context matters and he spoke in the context of lived reality. He had the ability to connect the dots and create connections because he lives in that reality. He referred to the lack of opposition in a democracy, the implications of the socio-political and religious life of the Nagas, unpaid salaries of thousands of Government employees, CAG reports and unfulfilled projects running into thousands of crores of rupees, and the discontents of the people in the run-up to the festival. But from a hotel room, it is understandable that an outsider cannot create the connections. That is alright for a tourist (so long as he does not pass judgments). It is more of a concern that locals could lead schizophrenic lives and is as unable as a tourist to make the connections.
For a tourist, it is not easy to identify ‘exhibitionism and commodification’ of culture that the local alluded to. Therefore, an outsider questioning a local’s analysis of his own culture and calling it ‘an exercise in intellectual snobbery’ speaks of who the real snob is. Some tourists read the history and culture of the people they will be visiting and are mindful of the sensibilities of the local people. A ‘cultural team’ comes in jeans and latest modern fashion and changes to a costume which covers only a fraction of the body, puts up a show for a price, and leaves as he came. And that is defined as ‘promotion of culture’. Perhaps against such things, the local spoke.
Locals speak out in the hope that things can be better. It is not criticism for the sake of criticism from a safe distance. Locals ought to raise uncomfortable questions and bear the responsibility of living with what one had said. ‘Why be so negative?’ some people who follow ‘positive attitude’ as a religion say when such uncomfortable issues are raised. But it is extremely important that there are voices of self-critique (without going into cynicism). That can be a positive sign, that people do care and they truly have a sense of belonging and responsibility to the place.