Despite the blazing heat at noon on a weekday, photographer Amar doesn't have time to talk. His customers are clamouring for his attention as he takes predictable photos of them smiling and flashing peace signs in front of the Gateway of India. He's glad for this mid-week rush because thanks to Barack Obama, he won't be making any money this weekend. Since the US President is set to visit the city over the Diwali holidays, the entire area around the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, right upto Jehangir Art Gallery, will be off limits.
"We usually make around Rs 10,000 on Diwali, but this year, we'll have to sit at home," sighs Amar, who usually charges Rs 30 to Rs 50 per picture. In barely an hour, he's already scored Rs 500 from the tourists around the popular spot.
AR Francis, a tourist agent, is also unhappy with the news. "This would have been a good weekend for us because of the long break. Last year, we saw three times the usual number of tourists around now. We work on commission and since we've been asked to stay away for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we can forget about making a few extra bucks." He pegs his personal loss at around Rs 2,500 to 3,000 for the weekend.
Onkar, who works at the Maharashtra Tourism stall offering trips to the Elephanta caves, admits that this new development leaves travellers to and from Alibaug in a bind. "They will have to go by road, which is expensive and takes about three and a half hours," he says. "But if the government has asked us to shut shop, nobody has any choice."
Funnily enough, nobody is sure of the exact dates of their forced vacation. While Francis and Onkar hope for business to return to usual on Monday, Victoria carriage driver Kamal says, "We've been asked to stay away from Saturday till Monday."