This has happened to all of us – we have arrived in a new city, completely bewildered by hodge podge of dusty roads and ramshackle shops and need to find a particular address – you well know what an uphill task this will be. Firstly you have the problem of the language and accent, then you cannot be sure that the taxi/auto chap won’t pull a fast one on you. You may even have a problem with a less familiar locality in your own city…
The will to help
When you ask for directions that chap at the nukkad, paan ki dukaan or fruit thela will display great alacrity to offer you information. He really, genuinely wants to help. He may not be able to, but gallantly he will not let that deter him. He may have no idea about where it is you want to go, but he will think long and hard and still give you directions that he thinks could well take you where you want to go. So if that guy appears to be thinking hard when you ask for directions, be afraid, be very afraid.
Well it could be left. Or right. Or straight. That smiling auto guy hanging out of his vehicle precariously to give you directions will tell you to go right while gesturing with his left. Take your pick. And proceed at your own peril.
Indian Stretchable Time
If the chap tells you, “It’s just 10 minutes from here” do NOT believe him. Do not be relieved that you are close to your destination. You could be; but you could as easily not be. It could be 10 minutes on foot, by cycle, by auto or by jet plane as the crow flies. We Indians do any way have a rather hazy concept of time; when giving directions, that concept becomes even more muddled. Remember, that guy wants to help, really help so he will say “10 minutes” even if you’re still an hour away. See, he wants to make you feel better.
Elastic concept of distance
On a recent trip to Himachal, we heard of a rocky river bed close to where we were staying. My girls were very excited and wanted to go splash around a bit. We asked for directions. The first chap said 2 kilometers. When we’d gone two km and the river bed was nowhere in sight, another chap helpfully told us, it was very close, just follow the road. We followed the road for a full 8 km before we saw the river. 2 or 20… what’s the difference?
Even your GPS will be inadequate
Well you have GPS now – you cannot get lost, right? Wrong. What your GPS thinks is an unpaved road is now a 4 lane highway. Your GPS doesn’t know that the flyover 5 years in the making is now finally complete and the indicated detour no longer exists. Google Maps also doesn’t know that the phone cable guys have dug up this road and it will not be motorable for the next 2 weeks. And how would your GPS be expected to know the shortest distance between point A and B is via the most crowded bazaar in the world, where one can just about walk at a normal speed; where venturing in with a car would be nothing short of foolhardy!
It happens only in India
As you can see in this video amazing things happen in India and many of these happen only in India – in our weird, wonderful, unpredictable, chaotic, overwhelming, endearing and completely unforgettable country!
By – Reena Daruwalla
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