A lot of travelers find Touts to be annoying. No one really wants to be followed around, taken to shops that they don’t want to go to and be constantly sold to.

They can’t be avoided so then how can you turn it into an opportunity?

The market in Varanasi is on the main road, hard to miss. However, as I work my way up and down the road, I realize that I am only seeing fruits and vegetables. Chicken, meat or fish vendors are nowhere in sight. I can’t even follow my nose to lead me to them. In a country that is 82% Hindu and with a high percentage of vegetarians, finding the section where meats are sold could be a little tricky.

Before long, a young guy, Babu, walks up to me and strikes up a conversation. All of the usual questions at first, where you are from, are you married, how long you’ve been here. He wants to know where I want to go and what I am looking for. I tell him that I am not looking for silk or the temples but I want to know where the meat section of the market is. He looks puzzled. I make some clucking noises and then he gets it. He takes me through a bunch of side streets in a roundabout way (in an attempt to confuse me?!), cuts back out into the main portion of the market and into a building that I did not see before. In this mint green building, slightly set back from the main road, I find chickens, mutton and fish.

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

I understand the touts can be annoying. But I also understand that they are just trying to make a living and doing what they can to survive. In general, I like talking to them. I like seeing different parts of the city and learning all the back streets. I like hearing the different stories different touts tell about each of the main sights. I like trying to get to know them on some level. Sure, sometime they are telling lies or just making things up as they go along, but do we not tell half-truths ourselves?

The human moment is the moment that I am always searching for. The moment when the practiced stories don’t match up and they seem to think that I told them about something that I did not. I am a tough customer. I can wander around the city for hours on end and ask a million and one questions about the cows, the Gange, the temples, lassi and the burning Ghat. When they are finally tired of my strange curiosity and my refusal to buy much of anything, the facade cracks a little and I get to see a little bit of them as they are, boys hustling for survival in a reality that is far from easy.

What are your favorite experience with touts on your travels?

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