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Google maps

By Nickunj Malik - Dec 06,2017 - Last updated at Dec 06,2017

For those of us who managed to get the hang of it, Google maps are a technological boon that have been gifted to all drivers. They give you direction, to go from one place to another, however alien the terrain, in a clear and concise manner. 

Its website claims that it offers satellite imagery, street maps, 360 degree panoramic views of the lanes, real time traffic conditions and route planning for travelling by foot, car, bicycle or public transportation. The reasoning for all this excess of information is that if you apply it, there is no chance of you getting lost. Ever! 

Well, in real life that is not true because people who are constrained by a lack of navigational skill, continue to wander around in circles. Even the robotic programmed voice gives up on them after a certain point. In such a scenario, the only thing that works is stopping the car and asking somebody for directions. 

Now, this was easily done when I drove on my own because there were endless people who offered to help. Some of them went out of their way by volunteering to have me follow their car till my destination was reached. If they could not accompany me, they took my phone number and called me later to find out if I had arrived safely. The kindness of strangers was simply awe inspiring. 

My brothers, who taught me how to drive, insisted that this was the best strategy to use if I ever got lost. More than three decades ago there were no GPS or Google maps anyway, and most of the time one had to follow one’s instincts. The streets were also not so clearly marked and the landmarks were not static but in a continuous state of motion. For instance, if on a given day there was a cow sitting at the crossing from where you were asked to turn, the next day the same spot would be acquired by a herd of sheep.

But in all this, the curious thing was that both my siblings never asked for assistance from anybody even if they were clueless of their whereabouts. They drove around aimlessly till the right path materialised miraculously. And if someone was unfortunate enough to ask them for directions, they almost always sent them on a wild goose chase. 

It bothered me to witness this but they guffawed at my expense and thought it was hilariously funny to despatch unknown people in a fruitless search. If I corrected them I was asked to hush up or they would label me a spoilsport and a sissy. As we all know, at that age there was nothing worse than being called a coward. 

I cannot remember at which juncture I started to mimic their mannerism. It came upon me gradually since not many folks requested a woman for street guidance. On my part, I discovered that I liked to direct strangers because they listened to me with complete attention. So sometimes if I did not know precisely where they wanted to go, I guided them to another place anyway. 

“Why did you send them straight? Walmart is on the left,” my husband exclaimed recently. 

“They asked me, not you,” I replied. 

“And I said go right and then straight,” I clarified. 

“But that is the wrong direction,” my spouse was horrified. 

“Maybe,” I giggled. 

“You stated it with such authority,” he noted. 

 

“Runs in the family,” I laughed.

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Comments

Even to me it has appeared at times that the lady intoning the directions in a tinny voice, seems to get irritated at my not following them to the T. Feminine petulance is so strong an emotion that it seems to have found its way into comouters!

Though I must say that I have found it to be a huge blessing, especially in the confounding traffic of Delhi. Prior to Google, by the time I made it to the kerb to avail of a "helpful" passerby, helpful as you describe, braving angry honking of horns and colourful Delhi vocabulary, I would had missed the divider. With miles to go before one found another one, it was back to the kerbside again, seeking directions from another "helpful" passerby.

Google made me feel as a driver, what the first empowered woman must have felt.

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