The Calcutta Saga

In this hotel we receive a lot of travellers from all over the world and to be honest, we've done a fair bit of travelling ourselves. On one of our travels in India we took a photograph (as you do) of an articulated bus as we'd never seen one before and thought it a brilliant idea.
In 1997, as we were designing the hotel Prinsenhof website, we published this picture on the frontpage of the transportation pages just to add a bit of air and colour to the site.
In May 2002 we got an e-mail from an American lady (see below) who seemed to be rather disturbed by the picture and suggested we remove the "disastrous" image. Open minded and hearted as we are we decided to let a few Indian people have a look at the subject in order to establish a profound and justified opinion on this subject because, as per our view, A) we are not ridiculing India but actually praising it by calling this an inventive means of transport, B) this is not a disastrous picture (the bus was functioning normally, people were getting on and off) and C) we didn't think we should make certain changes. Of course it can be discussed whether this photo fits in with a page that's supposed to be about Amsterdam, but that's not what this lady was upset about.
As this issue was getting a bit out of hand and became too time consuming (believe us, we're quite busy here), we decided to open up a separate discussion forum where people can ventilate their opinion directly, instead of through the hotel reception.
If you feel you want to have a say about this subject, please do so in the discussion group. Direct reactions per e-mail to the hotel will not be answered directly anymore.

I took a look at your website and it is really sad to say that you ridicule at developing countries and their problems by showing the disastrous pictures on your website. Let me tell you that your website loses its charm and it is made with a very low mentally. I have shown your website to atleats 50 people and you have lost esteem for Amsterdam as well as self respect as I have got only negative comments on them, not to mention them. I am an American and and don't care whether you are a Dutch or an Indian, I think respect for certain things have to be maintained. I hope you make certain changes in your website. Regards, Sonia

Dear Ms Sumant, Thank you for your e-mail. We always welcome genuine critisism on what we do, as it helps us to keep our standards up. However, I must say that 50 people who lose their esteem for Amsterdam on grounds of an innocent photograph is a slight overreaction in my opinion. Also, you talk of pictures where there's only one and that's not even one that one could describe as "disastrous", neither would I classify it as "ridicule at developing countries". On the contrary, it's described as being an inventive means of public transport. I have copied your message and sent it to quite a number of people in India with an explanation of the situation and asked them to copy and send it on to their friends and relatives in order to get a view of what they think about this matter (after all, the Indian people should be more entitled to react on this subject than American people are) I should have all reactions in by May 11th, and I'll let you know what the outcome is. With kind regards, Mark Bakker

Hello Well thank you very much for your reply. I think that is a very good idea bout sending this picture to a couple of Indians and taking a good look at their reactions. I would like to wait for the recommendations. Sorry for the description of the picture but to my knowledge, it really is not a right attitude towards any country. Regards, Sonia

Dear Ms Sumant, Having been quite busy lately it took me some time to get back to you regarding your comment about the photo of an Indian bus on our website, for which apologies. I've filtered a few reactions and pasted them below.

I frankly find the Lonely Planet on India a lot more likely to offend and having been a resident of Calcutta for more than 5 years the sights, sounds and smells are "naturally" and "delightfully" offensive . But this photo and caption, not by a long shot - it says it is as it is. Does the "more than 50 years in use " painted on the bus have something to do with her ire I wonder!!

Take it cool Mark and hold your view I think that's fine - we have been used to some amount of ridicule and can be ultra sensitive sometimes!! If you can , would you send me her email id I just want to know if its a certain Sonia I used to know in Calcutta who's now in The USA!! Dont worry I wont write her what I think of her!! Monu & Suchi Iyappa

checked out your web page. i didn't find it offensive but i think the picture is irrelevant to the content of that page. if it is supposed to by funny, i missed the joke [like i always do.. ask monu (:] your mail was sent to me by my ex-boss, the magnificent monu. i am in london for this year. will be travelling to amsterdam during the autumn.. maybe i will drop by and say hi. best wishes, sumit

I live in California and thought it relevant to provide a few comments. Most Indians I come across in the US suffer from what I call a "Generational Conservatism". While the rest of Indian has moved on and possibly shaken off some of the emotional vesitges of colonialism, thanks to the astounding changes in the past decade, those who have emigrated to foriegn countries continue to be defensive about India and things Indian. While my friends in India would be amused by your webpage (as I was) most Indians that I know in the US would be offended and will start aiming missives in your direction. It is for the same reason that the average Indian who emigrated to the US or UK in the last 10 years is more conservative than those they called friends in India. Hope this helps. /Ravi

Examined the case of double-decker in Calcutta and accusations by Ms. Sonia. The picture does not ridicule developing countries as per my views. I feel that this lady is not having anything to do but to surf, grumble and waste time of a lot of other persons. I feel she may not be a genuine person since she claims to be an American when she is offended by this picture. Such responses to your site are best ignored. Do keep in touch. With best wishes. Anupam Saurabh Pune

In all respect to your opinion we have decided to leave the picture where it is. With kind regards, Mark Bakker

Hello I am surprised that all the Indians have reacted this way. Well I am not sure as to how come all of them have dissapproved of my comment. Anyway if you wish to have the picture on your website, gladly do so but I still feel its rude mockery and an irrelevant picture displayed in your website. I am also planning to send this picture to some important Indian organisations dealing with such issues, you will soon get a feed back. Regards, Sonia ====================================================================