In the days before Google maps came into our lives, asking for directions and locating places was an art in itself. Those dubious methods offered an intriguing commentary on the culture and people of a particular place, which varied starkly from city to city.
Stand-up comedian Arnav Rao speaks of the diversity in his experience as he moved from Hyderabad to Chennai when he was eight years old. “The real culture shock that I went through was in the way people give directions in these cities. This is a day and age pre-Google Maps where you have to ask another human being how to get from Point A to Point B,” he quips.
To him, Hyderabad presented a laidback, nawaabi culture – prone to giving directions that involved moveable landmarks, and tips like “Road nahi chhodhne ka” or “don’t get off the road. He gives an example of what someone once told his family: “Go straight, turn right where you meet the three-legged dog, or cat, then look for the vegetable vendor, and ask him for the rest of the directions.”
Chennai, however, the city of great academia does not stand for any of this vagueness, with its angled precision and “that IIT Boot Camp mentality”. And directions there are in the form of pure mathematics instructions.