Being bereft of a bike and usually without cash for an auto, means I often find myself walking across large stretches of Bangalore, printout of google maps in hand. Except for the odd understandable mistake, such as where the third Coffee Day outlet in the 4th street is confused with the fourth Coffee Day in the 3rd street, I find it a reliable aid.
When I’d just moved in to Bangalore, I used to try asking for directions, but stopped soon after I found the locals, in their zeal to help someone lost, often point out the first set of directions that comes to mind (nextu leftu, straightu…). They do say it with a lot of warmth, and it is hard to curse them even when you find yourself looking at a bakery in a dead end instead of an IT park. But the last straw was when the conductor of a bus pointed me to the wrong stop. I decided that I needed directions I could bank on, and turned to the Fount of All Online Knowledge. Half an hour’s worth of sneaking around the office printer later, I was armed with google maps of most parts of the city, and had thrown in printouts of a couple of restaurant reviews for good measure.
It gave me quite a rush, to be able to figure out where I wanted to go and even taking the shortest route there- no crisscrossing one ways or traffic jams. In fact, at times I felt like Sudden. A man roaming unknown lands, when in trouble, whipping out his weapon in the blink of an eye, using them ruthlessly, and walking on, ever closer to his destination. That I was no mean, gun toting outlaw, but an overweight but law-abiding geek didnt reduce the immense satisfaction I got from whipping out the maps from my sling bag and successfully figuring directions.
I of course knew it couldnt last. There would come a time when the maps would let me down. But I figured that I could always ask for directions then, and by excluding the directions the locals gave me, I could arrive at my destination. But that was before I decided to sign up for French classes.
After a morning of unrepentantly stumbling from site to site at work, I found myself on a page with details of French classes in Bangalore. In a decision brought on partly by guilt over not doing anything worthwhile, I decided to sign up. As I had to get to the place to register, I packed my maps and left the office early that evening. An uneventful bus ride later, I found myself standing within, I was certain, a ten minute walk from my destination.
It was when the cheery, whistle punctuated, ten minute walk brought me right to the end of a one way street with no sign of my destination, did I notice the place I had to get to had been marked on couple of places in the google map. I decided to ask for directions the nearest paan waala for directions, when it struck me.
I had to get to the Alliance Fracaise. While I would normally pronounce it as ‘Al-i-un’s Francis’, but during a call earlier, I’d heard it being pronounced like ‘Beyonce’. I didnt want to ask the few people who looked like they might know the location and the pronounciation as well. So I tried the paan waala and his customers, but neither ‘Al-i-un’s’ nor ‘Al-i-uns-u’ elicited a response.
Finally I had to ring up the Oll-i-onse to figure where it was, and the disappointment ran deep. It was like Sudden having several leagues to cover to rescue a damsel, but his horse dawdling over its grass, like Jack Sparrow cornering Barbossa, but his pistol refusing to fire its single bullet, like Jeeves stumped, just when Bertie Wooster… ok, you get it – I felt let down.
p.s. I realise most of my bloody rustic Chennai friends reading this would label me ‘Peter ‘, in reference to the whole learning French thing. I beg to differ. ‘Peter’ refers to learning/speaking English with an intention to impress (source: Wikipedia article). I am learning French. Label me ‘Pierre’ if you must..