Canon A1, 24mm/f2.8, Velvia 50
They start their training around 5, coached by the older kids and auto-rickshaw drivers. I've seen this in action when a little kid catches me on the street and tries to engage me in conversation.
As we walk, there are people on the street giving the kid advice. I think it's more organized than it first appears.
They get truly annoying by around 10 and are occasionally useful when they're a bit older. No matter the age, touts are a fact of life in Khajuraho, so ya gotta make the best of it.
- Assume Genuine Friendliness
- Be Honest
- Be Calm
- Be Skeptical
- Don't be Dissuaded
Most are just kids, probably pressed into service by their families. They are curious about me, and the world, even if they can't sell me on anything.
I try to start off every conversation as if the kid isn't a tout. Sometimes they aren't.
As soon as I realize I'm dealing with a tout (that seems to be about 90% of the time), I let the kid know that I'm happy to walk and talk, but I won't be doing any business.
Sometimes they stay, sometimes they go, but keeping the conversation honest makes it easier on both of us.
Touts can be annoying, but there's no reason to get upset. I just go with it. The touts here, whether I like it or not.
Getting bent out of shape would just ruin the overall experience, and risk escalation or hurt feelings.
A conversation with a tout can lead to an interesting bit of information, an offer for something interesting (a motorbike ride to the waterfalls on some kid's Honda may be cheaper and more fun than taking a ride on a mafioso autorickshaw), or just some interesting cultural observations.
Most of the time, however, they are trying to find an "in". If you accept an offer for tea, or to go hang out and talk at some other place, you're setting yourself up for a hard sell or a gem scam.
I enjoy the many random conversations I have on the street, but I'm guarded enough to leave it there.
Khajuraho is a great place to visit, especially in the off-season. The temples are out of this world and it's a welcome relief from the insanity of the transit stations in nearby towns.
If this place had been described to me by someone who didn't know how to deal with touts, I'd have reconsidered coming. I'm glad that no one dissuaded me, least of all the Looney Planet.