Can India be explained?

Updated: Jun 10, 2019, 07:57 IST | Shunashir Sen

The Guide test drives a new app run by a team of students, making an earnest effort at acting as a virtual guide for tourist destinations

Can India be explained?
Visitors at Haji Ali Dargah

The Edinburgh Castle sits atop a volcanic rock in the city centre, like a grand old sentry keeping watch over the Scottish capital. You walk up to an esplanade that leads to a gigantic gate, through which you enter the compound. The place is divided into different sections, such as St Margaret's Chapel and the Argyle Tower, and detailed audio guides and descriptive pamphlets help you unravel the history of each spot. It's a place that 17-year-old student Avantika Khanna visited three years ago, when her father pointed out to her that the Red Fort in Delhi is double the size of the former abode of Scottish monarchs. This puzzled Khanna. "If the Red Fort is so much bigger, then why does it get less than half the visitors here?" she asked, before being told that the answer is simple. Outside of guides who can be hired, there are no free audio guides or informative pamphlets that visitors can rely on to learn more about the place, and since there's no one to pique it, their interest wanes as a result.

Gateway of India
Gateway of India

So, when the youngster returned home, she was determined to rectify this problem. It's no secret that tourist spots in India have little information available for visitors. This has led to a parallel industry of guides who harangue people to hire them for a cost. Khanna's idea was thus to build an app that acts as a virtual source of information about some of the country's most-visited places. She started by building a prototype for it, before approaching investors, building a business model, and hiring a team of people — all of them students — spread across seven cities. And that's how India Story came about.

Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun's Tomb

I tried the app out and found it to be an earnest effort at documenting monuments and ancient Indian structures. The first thing that struck me is its simple, user-friendly layout. You pick a city of your choice before being led to certain historic places located there. Then, after you choose one, you are led to a map with different spots that are marked by indicators. Click on one, and there's an audio file containing a concise history about that particular structure. For instance, the one on Humayun's Tomb reveals how — even though the Taj Mahal is widely regarded as the first mausoleum built for love — it was in fact Humayun's older and, ironically, less-preferred wife who built this magnificent representation of Persian architecture for her late husband, much before the Taj Mahal was constructed.

Avantika
Avantika Khanna

The app is a work in progress. But Khanna tells us that the plan is to add more places and tie up with heritage walk organisers to offer a more comprehensive experience. What's refreshing about the endeavour is that the students who narrate the audio files have a certain earnestness in their delivery which makes it endearing. And what's even more encouraging is that a bunch of teenagers have shouldered a responsibility that, ideally, the government and related authorities should have taken up in a bigger way much earlier.

Search for India Story on Google Play

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