That time when I got really, really lost

Last week, I was sent to cover the awards ceremony for PNLIT at Puttenahalli Lake. A beautiful little oasis in an otherwise frantic metropolis. The folks around there have been working to restore it for quite a while, and the progress they’ve made is impressive. I was excited to head to a part of Bangalore I hadn’t seen before and see the lake for myself. I was also wildly underprepared for how incredibly lost I was going to get.

My auto rickshaw driver and I shared no English or Kannada, but my co-worker had spoken with him before we departed. He seemed to know the lake — how lost could we get? Very. The answer is very, very lost.

Once we started closing in on my intended location, my driver began doing something unnerving: looking at me for direction. He’d slow, point to what might have been a lake or an open field and look at me questioningly. It did not please him when I simply returned his questioning look and repeated the only directions I knew: “Puttenahalli Lake, Entrance.” So he’d speed back up and drive a little while and slow back down and give me the same questioning look. Finally, I nodded, although I had no idea where I was, we sorted out payment, and then I stood in the middle of the street for a little bit, wondering if I was anywhere near where the ceremony was supposed to be. I could see a fence that was allegedly around the lake. The lake, then, was much bigger than I had expected. The adventure began.

Looking back, it’s clear I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. If I were to behave this way when lost in the wilderness I would die almost instantly and I would never be found. Because looking back, I’m pretty sure I just picked a road that looked kind of walkable, and started walking down it with purpose. Fifteen minutes passed. I had found what appeared to be a neighborhood. I had almost gotten hit by a bus. There were more cows than people. And finally, gratefully, I saw a landmark I recognized from Google Maps: Topspin Tennis Academy. “I’m almost there!” I thought, triumphantly. And immediately thereafter hit a dead end.

Optimism and patience worn thin, time running out: I decided it was time to cave and call my source and beg for directions.

“Hi! Sorry about this, but I appear to be lost…”

“Oh, no problem at all. Where are you?”

“By the Topspin Tennis Academy!” I replied proudly.

“… Alright. But where are you? What’s around you?”

My heart sank.

“A tennis academy?”

“A tennis academy. Anything else? No? … Let me call you back.”

I had this lingering feeling that she would not be calling me back.

Thankfully she did, with this advice: “No one knows where you are. Or where that tennis academy is. Get in an auto and tell the driver to go to the Millenium Brigade Entrance.”

It seemed like some sort of magic password. And when I repeated it, multiple times to my driver, it worked, more or less. He whisked me away to an entirely different place, in the opposite direction of where I’d been walking. I arrived only 15 minutes late, and throwing Rupees at the driver and scurrying across the street, made it in time to see the award being officially given to the recipients.

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Holly Thorpe

Holly Thorpe is a writer and journalist.

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