Asking for directions.

[Conundrums in the day to day public transportation in Dhaka-Part I]

You know the neighborhood, the street number, and the building number of a house you need to go to. You wave down a rickshaw cycling down the street. You tell him these exact numbers and he makes a head nudge before you can even finish towards the back seat. He wants to not convince you, but tell you that he knows what he is doing and to just hop on.

Except that once you are in the vicinity of road 70 when you need to get to 58 (but of course roads around the neighborhood are never designed in linear matter) he doesn’t actually know where to go. He expects you to know though. He does not understand that you are going to a new place even if you live around the area. He will still expect to rip you off on the price at the end though, claiming that you not knowing where you are going deems for a higher rate. And then you have to force him to stop people randomly in the street to ask where my destination could be.

And then the person you ask raises his right arm and points straight. And the next person you ask points straight ahead too making vague eye contact. By the fourth person once you have successfully made a few circles on roads 70, 68, and 74 you realize that your instinct was right- no one knows your destination. Not your rickshawallah, not the cha stand guy, or the guys hanging around the cha stand guy who just want to enjoy the cha and stare at you than to give you directions.

But it’s not that they don’t want to give you directions. They don’t actually have a clue. It’s just that they don’t want to seem like they are incapable and not know their ‘hood. They would rather point you to an unknown world than to have to shake their head and admit defeat.

This is a common problem I run into as I explore my area (the combination of Gulshan, Baridhara, and Banani, hereafter referred to as the ‘tri-state’). This is a personal problem I face in Dhaka since frankly speaking I still don’t know my way around. Whenever my driver/peddler and I ask the victim of my target on the street for directions, my target prefers to point me towards the way I was already going in. After all, probability states that they have a 50/50 chance of being correct- matter of letting me keep moving forward or turn around.

Finding a random location based off of an accurate address (that would normally suffice) is a game in the tri-state. You get on the rickshaw knowing in the back of your head that they probably don’t know where they are going. That is why you allot thirty minutes to go to a place that would more likely take fifteen minutes to go to, plus taking into account human and car traffic. And then you participate in a game of ask and tell- ask other rickshawallahs, guards, cha-wallahs, fruit sellers, children, and suited men briskly walking to their private cars who will only respond if I am the one asking. And eventually, you will get to the right place if probability works in your favor which magically in Dhaka, it usually does.

So, let the game of making it to your destination begin, continue, and never end.

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