Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
1 The Changing Tourist Gaze in India's
Hill Stations: Vignettes from the
Early 19th Century to the Present
Kathleen Baker
Department of Geography, King's College London, London, UK
visitor's gaze on India's hill stations is also based
on Western perceptions. The problems involved
with visualizing events (both past and present)
are noted by Gregory (1994), while Wright
(1947, p. 15), who considers the role of imagina-
tion in geography, forces us to refl ect on whether
we can justly say that there is any congruence
between 'The world outside and the pictures in
our heads'. Views of the world are transient,
and as the world of the 19th century is not one
we knew or experienced, we have to rely on lit-
erature and imagery produced by authors and
artists from that period. Even though we now
live in a globalized world where comparisons
are frequently drawn across continents and
regions, we still face problems explaining the
tourist experiences of other cultures. Inevitably,
these must be framed within the cultural context
of the observer (Lowenthal, 1972), which, in
itself, is a limitation. The justifi cation for a West-
erner's attempt to compare the gaze of 19th-
century European visitors to Indian hill stations
with those of modern Indian tourists is indeed
thin; however, it is hoped that a combination of
the author's personal experience of hill station
life in the wake of the Empire, 1 supplemented
by secondary source information - fi eldwork in
The aim of this chapter is to explore the major
groups of visitors to India's hill stations during
the British era, broadly from the mid-19th cen-
tury to Indian Independence in 1947, and to
compare and contrast the gaze of these earliest
recorded visitors with that of more modern
domestic tourists. Inevitably, we face problems in
doing this. First, the term 'tourist' was rarely
applied to the earliest European visitors to hill sta-
tions, although that was what they were, so
instead, the term 'visitor' is used as an alternative
to 'tourist'. Second, representing the past is inevi-
tably an act of the present, and however much
we try to empathize with the past, we are, none-
theless, observing it through a contemporary lens
(Driver, 1992, p. 36). Third, when discussing his-
torical situations we must consider through whose
eyes we are seeing history. In this case, the answer
has to be through Western eyes, as much of the
literature and imagery from the British colonial
era in India is based on reports and evidence
generated by the British. A comparatively small
amount derives from the work of Indian authors.
Concerning more recent times, our expla-
nation of the modern, predominantly Indian
1 The author lived in Yercaud for ten years and has also visited several other hill stations including Simla, Mussoorie
and Dehra Dun in the Himalayas; Munnar, Ponmudi and Thekkady in Kerala, and Ootacamund, Conoor and
Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. Fieldwork in Yercaud and Ooty was carried out in December 2006 and December 2007.
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