Well and truly lost

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August 24th, 2009 Pablo Chaterji

It almost embarrasses me to admit it, but for a fellow who spends most of his time travelling (for a living, no less), I’m rather directionally challenged. Just to give
you a small example, I have been living in the Bombay suburb of Bandra for over two years now, and I still don’t know my way around it properly, apart from a couple of routes to and from the office. It doesn’t help that much of Bandra is still a maze of old-world lanes and alleys, but surely someone who’s driven thousands of kilometres all over the country should have at least a passing familiarity with his own neighbourhood? Not in my case, it would appear; I am usually to be found with a blank expression on my face if someone asks me for directions within Bandra.
This regrettable state of affairs extends itself well beyond the boundaries of Bombay. I normally pick up a car in Delhi whenever I’m driving around up north, and I always have a few nervous moments the night before I’m to leave Delhi – you see, getting out of that damn city has never been an easy task for me. The family I stay with there has a chauffeur, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to ask him for detailed directions about how to exit Delhi. His standard response is ‘But didn’t I tell you the last time you were here?’, to which I can do no more than grin sheepishly and beg his indulgence once again. Of course, the fact that I often end up getting hopelessly lost despite his advice is another matter. Entering the city provides just as many opportunities for losing my way – I once ended up crossing the Yamuna Bridge four times without realising quite what I was doing. On another memorable occasion, I drove almost all the way to Meerut, when my goal was to head in exactly the opposite direction. I feel, however, that I’m not entirely to blame as far as Delhi is concerned – I find the number of roundabouts and multi-directional flyovers in that city maddeningly difficult to decipher.
I must also admit that I’m a bit paranoid about routes when I’m out on the open road (it’s a Virgo trait, even though I’m a Leo by birth – long story). If I don’t see a distance marker or board for a while, I start to wonder if I’m on the right track and feel an urgent need to stop immediately and ask the nearest person. Of course, this can have its drawbacks. If I’m told I’m headed the right way, but the person looks of dubious navigational ability, then my worries deepen; if I’m laughed at and told I’m miles off the track, then of course I feel a right idiot. Not that passers-by are always piercingly accurate when doling out route advice, mind. Up north, the way to anywhere is frequently ‘Go straight and take a right’, often accentuated by pointing left. Is it any wonder I’m paranoid?
This is why I like living in Bombay, despite my being at a loss about my immediate surroundings. Of all the major cities in India, it’s the easiest to exit and enter; to the best of my knowledge, there are only four roads in and out of the city, and they’re all ‘straight down’ – no lefts, rights, circles and wildly-divergent flyovers to worry about. I’ve already mentioned Delhi’s peculiarities; Calcutta, Madras and Bangalore can be equally confusing in their own unique ways. Still, having said all this, it’s equally true that getting lost is often
more fun than being on the right road all the time. A great number of my most cherished adventures have been the result of taking a right instead of a left, and that’s something I wouldn’t change for all the world.

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2 Responses to “Well and truly lost”

  1. sameer Says:

    yo dude,

    i bet u can sniff out the route to Toto’s with your eyes closed…;–)

  2. Kalyan Says:

    Pablo:

    You need a portable GPS hardware in your car. Blaupunkt now sells its navigation devices in India. I remember they were not exactly prohibitive…particularly when you have a tendency to burn more gas looking for your destination. Hey Delhi is a maze. Even Shiela Dixit without her convoy will get lost in that place. So cheer up.

    But if your blog message was more philosophical such as a lost soul, am afraid there is very little Blaupunkt can offer! Cheers! :-)

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