Douwe Osinga's Blog: Non public transport

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Non public transport

Every time I arrive in a new city by plane, I wish one of those drivers holding up those signs would be waiting for me. Not that it really matters that much, taking the train from the airport into Zurich Haubtbahnhof is simple enough and just as fast as taking a car, but still. When we arrived in Hyderabad, there was a guy though, organized by Google, which was kinda nice as it turned out that the guesthouse that we were supposed to stay in was locked up and dark and our newly acquired driver somehow knew about another guest house where we could stay. All that was required at the end of the ride was a signature on a rather unclear form, but what the hell.

Traffic in Hyderabad

The next day we woke up rather late with the time difference, the long flight and the not sleeping the day before and all. So we found us a rickshaw and went to check out the old town. It was all very Indian with whole families traveling on motorbikes. Getting back was harder as it turns out that Indian addresses are, well, different. Like a colleague later explained, western addresses are declarative, Indian ones are procedural. They don’t tell you where something is, but rather describe how to get there, something like, the Jubillee Hills, in the area near the new shopping centre, opposite the big sign for Kingfisher, with any of the more common terms removed, which can be rather confusing as opp. McDonalds can mean opposite the McDonalds, but could just as well be talking about a big advertisement for McDonalds.

The next day, getting to the office was even worse. We had the full official address of Google, but this didn’t mean anything to our rickshaw driver (not that it stopped him from taking the ride) or any of the 12 people he asked in between. It is apparently quite acceptable in India to flag down a car to ask if they know where a certain location is, which I suppose further undermines the need for precise addresses.

When we finally got to the office it turned out to be a holiday (festival of letting the kites fly or some such) and there were very few people there. One guy volunteered though that he’d come into the office and show us around and said we could use ‘our car.’ Hmm, our car, we didn’t have a car, we said. He said he’d check on that too. When we got downstairs, the guy that had picked us up initially, apologized profusely about missing us yesterday and this morning. It turned out he was our driver, not just a random cab driver.