Recently, I received an email from an Indian reader who posed the following scenario to me.
Imagine you are back in your homeland Australia, you come out of your house and are just walking/driving towards the market, and a stranger approaches you and asks you, “Excuse me miss, can you tell me where does this road go?”
What would be your reply…?
He instructed me not to give much thought to the question and simply answer it naturally. After I’d responded, he’d share with me his reason for asking.
Okay, well, I’d stop and tell the person where the road goes.
But why did my reader want to know this?
As it turns out, he was bothered by the inability to get a straight answer when asking such a question in India. He went on to narrate his frustration to me:
When I go out for walk, or whenever I’m travelling to a new place or area in a locality which I have not explored, at some point I ask local person…..a store guy or guy who is just standing or sitting around ……..”Where does this road go?” All the time, the answer I get is, “Where do you want to go?” I reply, “I am exploring the place so just wanted to know where does it go?” Either he gets a confused look and asks, “What?” or says again, “Okay, so where do you want to go?”
I will narrate another incident on similar lines. Sometime back, I was waiting at Andheri bus stop (in Mumbai) for my bus to Borivali. Suddenly one AC bus came in, with no number or name of destination…so out of curiosity I asked the driver, “Where does it go?” He replied with, “Where do you want to go?” For all practical purposes, I was interested in knowing the route.
I know the other person actually wants to help me, that’s why he asks me for more details. But then why assume…somebody has figured our his destination…he might just be exploring it for fun or trying to see if that place could be his destination?
In conclusion, my reader wanted to know “if it’s we as Indians are like this, or it’s a global phenomena?”
After getting a similar answer to mine from a chat buddy in the US, he’s accepted it as part of “Being Indian”.
However, he’d love to hear about other people’s experiences in India and around the world (and so would I)! How would you answer the question — tell the person where it goes, or ask them where they want to go? And what kind of responses have you received?
Photo credit: Brad.coy