Where Do You Want to Go?

by Sharell शारेल on July 31, 2012

in Culture Shock in India

Post image for Where Do You Want to Go?

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

19 people like this post.
© Copyright 2012 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

Related Posts You May Like:

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Bejuwala July 31, 2012 at 9:09 pm

That’s a weird question to ask a local anywhere. It DOES seem like you’re in need of a specific answer, not like you’re “curious”. It could also be a philosophical sort of question with an answer like “trouble” or “bad news”.

He should be more specific and not expect others to accommodate his personal linguistic looseness. “What sights are on this road?” seems safe and direct or “Where does this road end?”.

Reply

Manny August 1, 2012 at 12:46 am

I agree..

Where does this road go?

To answer that, I have to list each and every shop and building and cityscapes this road leads to.

The man asking such a silly question should be given the wrong direction to teach him a lesson. Or maybe a snappy answer to his stupid question…like “This road leads to Rome”!

:P

Reply

Paresh August 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Remembered this Akbar Birbal tale.
http://ezinearticles.com/?Union-of-Akbar-and-Birbal&id=4202394
Road never goes anywhere its people that go..

Reply

daniela August 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Love it!

Reply

NM August 1, 2012 at 12:23 am

I think the question ‘where does this road go to’ is ambiguous and also presumptuous – especially when you are seeking help from someone who is spending time to help you. The road could go to a million places and you may not be interested in those places at all. So it would be a waste of time to expect someone to list all the places the road goes to.
The question is presumptuous because you are presuming that the person helping you has all the time in the world to be your personal navigator/map – just so you can pass time and ‘explore’ the world. Also the person may not know all the places a road goes to, but may be able to tell where a specific location is in the area. That is efficient use of everyone’s time.
Now this is not the same as asking a bus driver/conductor where an unnamed bus is going to – there is only one route for the bus, only one destination. If the bus is in service, it would have a destination board displayed, so the question would be unnecessary. If it does not have the destination board displayed, it is out of service, so again the question is a redundant.
If the sole purpose of the question is to fulfill your desire to explore a new area, then you should equip yourself with maps and general information. If you needed directions to a specific location (that can easily happen in big cities – which street/building naming conventions are not standardized) your question would be ‘Can you please help me find this ?’

I think it’s not part of being Indian – it’s part of being smart and resourceful and respectful of everyone’s time.

Reply

Genuine August 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

wow….. great explaination…….:-)

Reply

manjeet August 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

awesome explanation..i hope that nut case understands this :D

Reply

Manny August 1, 2012 at 12:49 am

In rural Australia, a road may lead to one particular destination.

In India, the road leads to a million places! State your destination where you want to go. Not that, that would get you the answer… it may just get you head bobble.

:P

Reply

Nick August 1, 2012 at 4:37 am

Hahaha. That is a silly question. But, the wish to get specific comes from a genuine desire to help this person and narrow an open ended question, is all. In the old days, if someone asked that question and the road was going south, people would say “Kanya Kumari” and if north, “Kashmir.”

Reply

Abhipsa August 11, 2012 at 2:07 am

Very true. This is exactly what I was going to say.
That is a very ambiguous question and in India especially. That bus would go to so many different places and from there you could connect to so many other places.
I have actually found this habit of Indians to be very helpful. I have asked locals “Does this bus go to Andheri?” They’ll say yes or they might say “Yes, but if you take the bus #xyz that will be a more direct and faster route. You can get it from that bus stop.”
That is so much more helpful!

Reply

Cyn August 1, 2012 at 6:59 am

I would tell them where the road goes without hesitation, I know the need to explore, walking around doesn’t need to have a specific destination. If you asked me about my street in Geneva I would say “In this direction you will reach the French border in less than 10 minutes walk, and if you go the other way it goes all the way down town to the commercial area and the lake” I don’t think it is any of my business where the person want to go exactly if they didn’t specifically asked about a landmark. If the person ask “Where is the market” then I will of course give them the directions to it.

Reply

beslayed August 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

This recalls a scene from “Malamal Weekly”. I don’t recall exactly how the dialogue went in Hindi, but it was something to this effect:

Lottery official comes to a remote village. He asks, “Where does this road go?” The response: “The road doesn’t go anywhere, sahab. You have to travel on it yourself.”

Reply

Padparadscha August 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Love this !

I have to say when asked where a road goes I also ask why and where the person is going. Actually I also do this when people ask me where is a specific street. Then I go on explaining that ok first you will see a bakery and then a nice winding road and then after interesting houses and you’re there. I guess many tourists got lost because of me :)

Reply

Julia August 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Hello

I also love this saying. Thanks for sharing – i think i’ll have to add that to my collection.

In response to the question: I’m australian and if someone asked me ‘where does this road go?’ i would also respond by asking for more information such as ‘where are you trying to get to? what are you looking for?’ etc.

Reply

Aruna August 1, 2012 at 8:16 am

In Australia, I think the question almost doesn’t arise because there are so many road signs, and every one has a road map book in their car, or a GPS machine. Having been an explorer in many cities of the world, I personally end up getting lost and finding new things because of it, and I rarely ask for directions, as I am well armed with a map. In India, it seems almost a custom to stop and ask for directions, but a vague question like “where does this road go?” would rightly get a vague answer. People in India are more accustomed to giving specific directions, and everyone is always on the way to a known destination. The vagueness is what confuses people.

Reply

dips August 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

Its a common Indian joke, one that was also picturised on an old ‘Gems’ TV ad.
Here, a “road” doesnt go anywhere, it stays where it is. It is you, who travels and goes somewhere on the road.
When asking out of curiousity, one needs to be v specific – e.g to the bus, what is the route, or what is the last stop will yield a better answer.
On an unknown road – ‘which area lies ahead’ (‘aage kaunsi jagah hai’) will yield a better result.
I dont know if its an Indian phenomenon, but it seems logical to me!

Reply

Makk August 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Well, IN India generally people dont explore that way.

though I do that and I know what kind of answer they give so either I dont ask or I give them a false place name just to get straight reply.

Moreover giving straight answers is not an Indian Phenomenon anyway.

Who ever you ask is more concerned either about you/your business or they are concerned you will get lost.. :)

Reply

Art August 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I grew up in the Deep South and spent plenty of time in the country and up in the Appalachians. In these places, in my youth, this was not an uncommon question and the answers met with were usually straightforward.

“Oh, it keeps going through them fields a ways then you hit the highway. Where you headed?”

“Go down here ’bout a country mile and you’ll end up at the trout stream. Y’all want a cup of iced tea?”

“This here road don’t go nowhere. Y’all ain’t from around here, are ye?”

Reply

Marcy August 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Art, I live in the south too, though not from the country side (love the Appalachians, fried green tomatoes, fried okra and sweet tea here).

What you said is spot on, but living in the Deep South and having been raised in India, I do not find much difference e.g “where you headed?” is very similar to asking a direct “where are you going”….its just that folks in the country side (including rural India) have the time to elaborate on the answer before asking for more specifics…I bet the reader would get a very different response if he asked somebody on a slow, dusty road somewhere in rural India.

Humans are the same everywhere, its only the environment and circumstance that grooms our habits which become traditions after many decades.

Reply

Anupam August 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Haha silly question….probably I would have responded…”It leads to the road less travelled”.

or

“To to the place where you are actually standing” – round around the globe. What goes around comes around ..;)

Reply

Pratik August 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm

While I agree to a lot of things which Indian do which is out of way when you meet first time ( asking for a persons salary , age , marital status )

This is probably not a Indian thing.. considering that most of the cities in India are unplanned, probably a rode will go to many places.
In general , I find people very supportive in giving direction …
specially in Mumbai..

Reply

Mary August 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

@Art, ha ha, I’m from the South too so I know what you mean! When we were little, we used to go “exploring” with our daddy, driving around random roads out in the country. This also happened to be part of my driver’s ed training.

Back to the question at hand: NO, this is not a silly question. First of all, we can assume that if he asks ‘where does this road go’ he obviously is not asking about any major road in India because obviously there would be signs for those. Some are taking this question very literally. Of course, the road doesn’t “go” anywhere, perhaps “lead” is a more accurate verb, and no, this question does not require you to tell the person about every single darn thing on the road. He’s just asking where does this road end up, more or less, or which direction it leads.
I have this problem all the time in India, and even with my Indian husband, who answers my questions with another question! Often, in India, people will just say something “doesn’t exist” or “is not possible” when they don’t know. I needed to ship some things to a small country in Asia; the man at the shippers that I called told me that the “country doesn’t exist!” so does he think I’m crazy and just made up the name of this country?? what the…?
Interestingly, I also had this problem when I lived in Italy, in terms of asking directions/information, so no, it’s not uniquely Indian, although Indians are very good at it.

Reply

ParitoshJ August 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

“Often, in India, people will just say something “doesn’t exist” or “is not possible” when they don’t know. I needed to ship some things to a small country in Asia; the man at the shippers that I called told me that the “country doesn’t exist!” so does he think I’m crazy and just made up the name of this country?? what the…?”

though not all Indian are such that they will say that thing “doesnt exist”, they will admit that they really dont know. but those that you have mentioned are undoubtedly incredibly stupid and retarded. personally when i come across such people, i fell to punch their damn face. :)

Reply

ParitoshJ August 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

typo- feel, not fell

Reply

Marcy August 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Mary, what you said is pretty accurate but I am not sure it is a true reflection of all Indians. Dismissing others ideas with a simple “is not possible” is pretty common and is more to do with habit than any real intention of indicating that you are crazy.

You have to remember that in India, widespread literacy and education was not all that common until a few generations ago. So in the past, the educated few would find dismissing the uneducated questions far more easier than giving a lengthy explanation for which they wouldn’t have understood anyway. Sadly, the language used is passed down out of habit to even the educated generation of today without much thought to the underlying meaning.

As people from India get more educated, travel, and live a more cosmopolitan life, they do change these habits unknowingly. The shipping employee you encountered obviously was not that knowledgeable of the geography or language he used. You might find that a person with a different background might give you a more appropriate answer. India is diverse and so are its people.

Reply

ParitoshJ August 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

though that shipping employee had a really bad knowledge of world geography, answering someone that such a country “doesnt exist” is plain stupid and unacceptably idiotic. as an Indian, i really fell embarassed by such people. diversity is not an excuse for such unprofessional foolishness.

Reply

Marcy August 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Agree. Though I do like diversity, I hate ignorance more. Being a shipping employee, he ought to know his geography better or at least have the humility and acknowledge his lack of knowledge.

Reply

linda-sama August 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

my experience after 6 trips to India is ask 10 Indians for directions and get 10 different answers. I chalk it up to “that’s the way it is in India.” the thing is, I’m not asking for directions to some obscure place — I was on Park Street in Kolkata asking directions to the Indian Museum which I THOUGHT was an easy question, but I still got multiple answers and directions. and ended up finding it myself.

I’m from Chicago and we’re very direct. As are our directions.

Reply

linda-sama August 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm

p.s. I also notice that when my rickshaw driver in Chennai (have used same one for every trip) doesn’t know how to get somewhere, he will never ask directions from women, only men. which I thought was amusing since once he was taking me to a women’s shelter in Chennai where I was giving a donation. just things I notice.

Reply

Marcy August 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm

India is diverse and so are its people. Some tell diversity adds more color, some tell it adds to the confusion. It all depends on what kind of person you are, you will either love it or hate it :)

Also India being more conservative, flagging down any random lady to ask for directions would be considered rude. The knowledge of the location of women’s shelter is not exclusively for women so it seemed logical for rickshaw driver to ask a man considering the prevailing current culture in Chennai/ India.

Speaking of asking for directions, what surprises me is how we notice different things based on where we were raised. I was raised in India, so I wouldn’t notice the rickshaw driver asking a man for directions, but definitely did notice that American men don’t ask for directions period (even before GPS was a common phenomenon). I always find it amusing as to why Indian men wouldn’t feel the same way if this were a guy thing. I seriously don’t think its a guy thing but more to do with stereotyping something very cultural/ local. I would like to hear honest thoughts from the guys.

Reply

Manny August 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm

“Also India being more conservative, flagging down any random lady to ask for directions would be considered rude.”

Right on…but the clueless would always figure out a nasty intent behind these things. Both Desies and gories.

Reply

Marcy August 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

True, but irrespective of whether the person is clueless or not, when a man belongs to a certain culture, he abides by it. Living in the US, if you happen to be a regular, law abiding, normal person and you see two women (one who is american but wearing a hijab and the other a typical non-hijab all-american woman)….whom would you ask directions?

So you see the type of person being asked doesn’t matter as much as what you would do in the first place to prevent confrontation and misunderstandings. There are always exceptions to every scenario, but they are not the norm.

Reply

Cattis August 2, 2012 at 2:59 am

In Finland (where I’m from) you will get a logical answer (next town, intersection, landmark) and no one would think anything of you for asking (probably not even ask where you want to go since that is none of my business and if you wanted to go somewhere specific you would have phrased the question that way!). In India I wouldn’t even be bothered to ask someone this question since I know the kind of responses it would yield. None of them helpful for sure.

Reply

Sam August 2, 2012 at 7:26 am

I once asked a bus driver (in America), “does this bus go to such and such?” He replied, “it can go anywhere you want.” I’m standing there thinking, “I hope they have planned the route out already!”

Reply

Perogyo August 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

This does seem very cultural. So I decided to experiment. I went to the bus station down the street from my house in small city Japan. There are 5 (city) bus lines that leave from it. There were 3 buses when I arrived, and I asked the first driver (all three were outside the buses smoking and drinking coffee) where his bus went.

He looked at me blankly and said he didn’t speak English (I had addressed him in Japanese). The next bus driver overheard, shoved his cigarette in his mouth, got his cell phone, and looked up a map of our city. He used his finger to outline the route, then offered to transfer the info to me via infrared. I got out my cell phone, we “bumped” by infrared, and voila. I thanked them and left. Not a single question to me, and the question was taken completely literally.

Then I rounded the corner (this is small-city Japan) and was asked by no less than three female neighbours why I’d walked to the bus stop and don’t I have a bus route map and oh it’s for that internet thing and oh really someone in Indonesia had such an interesting experience, and I bet they have such cute mixed race babies and when are we going to have another baby. Ha!

Reply

Kate August 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

My instant unthinking response would be tell the questioner literally where it went. For example “If you follow this street to the end you’ll end up in X Road and if you follow that to the left you’ll end up at the shops”. I am Australian and love to help tourists struggling with maps! I often stop and assist them.

Reply

Laura August 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

@Mary – like you, the only other place I have experienced this phenomenon is in Italy.
I think it’s a perfectly good and obvious question, and it’s one I get asked a lot in my small country town, because tourists tend to get lost around these parts. I pick the big tourist attractions in either direction. e.g. this road goes out through Main Arm and up over the Jerusalem ranges into Uki and Mount Warning. Or, this road will take you out of town and back to the Pacific Highway.
We discovered in India that so many people were ready and willing to strike up a conversation with us that any open-ended question was likely to result in a conversation. As a Westerner I don’t like being asked direct personal questions by someone I’ve only just met, even one as seemingly innocent as ‘where are you going?’ It makes me feel all defensive. And it used to drive us crazy that we couldn’t get a reliable straight answer.
On the other hand, I remember a wonderful bus trip we took on Fort Kochin that came about all because we couldn’t find out where the bus went, and so in the end we just got on and found out that way.

Reply

Annie August 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

We have a saying in French :
” Tous les chemins mènent à Rome ” ( translation : All roads lead to Rome )
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/all_roads_lead_to_Rome

Reply

Lyn August 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

When living in the US I asked a train conductor where the train would be going (simply to make sure that I would take the right one). He replied that the train isn´t going anywhere because it doesn´t have legs. This man tramatized me, since he added to my hesitation to ask questions in English – and in the month ahead I ended more than once in the wrong train…

However, I (as a German) would ask the person where he/she wants to go. If the answer would be ” I am only wandering around” I would make an effort to name a few possible destinations.

What makes me hesitant about the question is that it is absolutely depending on perception and personal experience. Ultimately the road might lead to my home but to someone elses kid´s kindergarten or fav restaurant or or or. And most likely this philosophical aspect would also be part of my answer…

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

He replied that the train isn´t going anywhere because it doesn´t have legs.

What a smart ass idiot. You should’ve asked him when was the last time he’s seen a train with legs.

Reply

Gaurav Magoon August 3, 2012 at 11:35 am

You should have replied to him that since the train isn’t going anywhere because it doesn’t have legs, he (the TRAIN CONDUCTOR) isn’t GOING anywhere in LIFE either :D

Reply

sowmya August 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

The need to expect a straight answer to where a road leads and the need to explore are very common. But a plain blunt question is not sufficient as far as India goes. One, because the road might lead to many different places. Two, the person helping may not always know.

To respect the person helping you, his time and willingness, it is very important to preface the question with intention. Someth like “I’m just traveling/exploring. Do you know what I would come across if I took this road”. Inspite of that, people may be inquisitive. That’s just India. As much as there are annoyances, there are equally helpful people eager to give directions. Sometimes it’s so annoying that 3 or 4 people compete to give different directions to the same destination and all of them might be right.

I’m reminded of the final scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks asks for directions. But not everyone can give precise answers like in that movie.

Reply

gaurab August 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

If someone ask me such a question I will myself get confused.Rather the person asking should be more precise like he is exploring the area and want to know about the place then he can get right answers.

Reply

venkat r s reddy August 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

1.I always give a straight answer.if they need further information i provide them again straight answers

2.when I asked others the same question, Majority of the Times People asked me back ,where do you want to go

Reply

Gaurav Magoon August 3, 2012 at 11:33 am

I like this article. I have experienced this also. Saying that its Being Indian is derogatory. Its because the ethics of helping one another or common courtesy lacks in common Indian. If you go to a Western Country, almost any DECENT person even a bus driver would tell you the location or destination. In India however, you would seem lost. But in this century, I am sure most SMART / WISE tech savy people would be wise enough to use GOOGLE MAPS and find their way and try to keep in touch with / search out helpful people (guides / friends) in India who can help them when in need. With most smartphones affordable and with internet on phone, I am sure finding your way shouldn’t be that difficult. I admit though that India’s roads aren’t exactly well designed such as in the west with BLOCK system etc but Technology has caught up quickly.

The sad thing in India that I have found is that the average joker who asks for directions randomly in the middle of the street is the kind who always gets by in life by asking for directions all the time. Which of course is not ALWAYS possible. Directions can be available sometimes, not always however.

Reply

Marcy August 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm

“Its because the ethics of helping one another or common courtesy lacks in common Indian. ”

I pretty much agree with all you said except the statement above. The question “where do you want to go” IS to help the other person and maybe PERCEIVED as lacking in courtesy, but the intentions are good. It helps to take the intentions into consideration and not just the language used when trying to portray ones experiences with other cultures.

Reply

Nisha August 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I just imagined myself standing in front of my parents’ home back in India and being asked this question. If they were pointing to the right side, I would have said “it goes to the city”. But if the finger was pointed in the other direction, I would have asked where they wanted to go, because that road splits several times, and not even in a left or right direction, but often at every angle even almost doubling back! Considering that most roads without sign boards are like that in India, I am not surprised by that answer.

The only time I can picture myself asking that question would be if I was walking along a bigger road and see a small side road (unpaved) that looks like it could lead to some place and stop there. For example to a river’s edge, or to a small temple, or up a hill.

Reply

benak August 4, 2012 at 8:10 am

Hi Sharell,
I do regularly follow your blog. . . and enjoy it. In fact I do appreciate the fact that at least one women from the west is trying to understand our culture. . But I really have to say this. . This particular entry is silly. . . There is nothing “INDIAN” about asking for specifications when asked such a weird ambiguous question. I stay in the United States and even I can point out a lot of flaws in the day to day life in the west. All I can say is that those”INDIANS”
were just trying to help him out. . . If the guy in this blog finds that funny. . . Well all I can say that he lacks basic courtesy and he should have said that he is just looking around. . .

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

Yes, the guy even stated that he knew the people were trying to help him out. However, the range of responses in the comments indicates that not everyone finds his question ambiguous and silly. In the west, he is most likely to get a direct answer. But, as people have pointed out, in India, a road could go anywhere so sometimes it’s hard to give a specific answer.

Reply

benak August 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm

There are a few responses which do not find this question silly but most of them do . . For example,

In response to the question: I’m australian and if someone asked me ‘where does this road go?’ i would also respond by asking for more information such as ‘where are you trying to get to? what are you looking for?’ etc.

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm

And that answer was also balanced by another Australian who indicated that she’d give a precise answer (“I think it’s a perfectly good and obvious question, and it’s one I get asked a lot in my small country town, because tourists tend to get lost around these parts. I pick the big tourist attractions in either direction.”). A friend from Switzerland also indicated that she’d give a precise answer (“I would tell them where the road goes without hesitation, I know the need to explore, walking around doesn’t need to have a specific destination.”) As did an American. (“I’m from Chicago and we’re very direct. As are our directions.”)

On the other hand, most Indians have indicated that they find it a “silly” (to quote your term) question.

Reply

benak August 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Ok . . . that was just an example . . . but there are many responses from westerners who do find it vague. . . and as I said instead of making a fuss about this he could have just said that he was looking around . . .

Reply

Jashn August 20, 2012 at 3:24 am

I’m from Toronto, Canada, born and raised, and I think I’d scratch my head at a question like that. I’d probably respond by saying which direction the road goes, ‘East/West’, whatever. Unless it were a highway or something that goes to a particular city.

But yeah, asking where does a road go, unless you’re in a tiny place and the road literally goes to only one place, is incredibly ambiguous, IMO. The road presumably goes to thousands of residences, businesses, tourist attractions, and how are you supposed to sum that all up in a short response?

I honestly find the question flawed. :)

Reply

MomWithaDot August 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

In the west, more so in the US, it is very rare that people stop and ask strangers anything. The same, however is quite common in India because people trust local experience to maps. Also, using technology to navigate the Indian roads is a recent trend, so the custom of asking someone on the street still exists. Regardless, the answer would be direct if it were a village or a small town. Considering the limited geography, it would be simple. In a city, there are multiple ways to getting around from point A to B. and hence, many answers. About the person that asked this question – he was the one to initiate a dialogue / conversation with a stranger unless, he assumed the stranger to be a free navigation answering service. In which case, isn’t it obvious who is being rude?

Reply

Manny August 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I thought about this… Next time someone asks me, Where the road goes. I’ll simply tell them where the road goes.

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

What? Not even give them a hard time? That’s unusual for you, Manny. Are you mellowing out? :-P

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Or do you mean, your answer would be “Where the road goes.” That would be more like it…

Reply

Manny August 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I was mellowing…but then, you had to pull me back in.. So!

:P

Reply

vinod August 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Reminds me of an Incident that happened when i was at Madurai with one of my cousin, who was doing his final year MBBS at Madurai Medical College. We were supposed to go in a bus to my dad’s cousin, His maternal uncle’s son, a gulf returnee.

His bungalow was on the left side of Fathima college.

My cousin asked the conductor “Does this bus go to bus stop A?”

He shook his head and said No

Then my cousin asked him “Tell me correctly where does this bus go?”

The conductor became furious “Who the hell are you to ask me to tell you correctly. I told you that it does not go there!”

The emotions flared, both were probably of the same caste and were about to get into a brawl. Tempers slowly lowered and the conductor replied where the bus was going. It was going from the right side of the Fathima college. My cousin argued that he just wants to know where it exactly goes, so that he can get down, probably change bus or get down at the stop nearest to the Fathima college.

The result of this fight was that conductor actually stopped the bus before the bus stop, at spot where roads bifurcated and ran on the right and left side of the Fathima college.

when I was studying at this rustic college, and could not read Tamil properly, I had a tough time. Imagine a guy, with books in his hands, dressed in shirt and pant asking a dirty lungee clad man , raising his fingers towards a bus “where does this bus go?” I still remember those stares. But most of them told it.

The issue in the Indian context is the volume is such inquiries.

I have also seen incidents where people get into wrong bus and the conductor has to drop them on a route where they did not wanted to go in the first place.

In Indian context, it becomes necessary for every person to show his power either explicitly or subtly. The conductor gets power due to his knowledge.

Its a hard day work for him. Any thing related to work tends to get irritating, especially if you are working in the stench of packed humans in a close space.

The volume of inquiry they get is staggering and does not compare to the such inquiries in other countries. The conductor subtly displays his power by asking “where do you want to go?”

My experience is that everyone on the Indian street will point you some direction, if you ask. Sometimes that direction would be right, and sometimes it would be not.

But most of the guys honestly try to answer either correctly or incorrectly.

Reply

flydye45 August 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

This is a pretty deep question in my mind.

Essentially, the question ‘where does it go’ presupposes that the person is open to what he might find. He has no specific destination in mind, but he is open to wandering someplace interesting…IF the destination might prove interesting. Hence the question.

But to the pragmatic goal driven Indian mind, it makes no sense. ‘You have a place you want to go. Where is that so I can help you get there?’

Open ended questions like that don’t work in that world view. Who has time to wander without a destination? Shouldn’t you be married and with a job now? WHERE ARE MY GRANDCHILDREN?

Ahem. Getting a bit far afield.

Other cultures have similar quirks. I think the Thais are a bit like that. The other fun quirk for some Pacific Rim cultures is to say ‘yes’ to everything. “Does this road go to the river?’ SURE, why not! And if you are disappointed when you find it doesn’t, at least you are happy now and no longer in my face.

Reply

Raccoon August 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

What a silly question and an even silly presumption. If someone was to ask this question in the US, they would get a ‘you’re stupid’ stare. Why should it be any different in India? Yeah if the road was a small one and went to a cul-de-sac, one might et an answer. What does the guy expect…a listing of all neighborhoods, towns, shops on the way? Asking a question like this is just annoying, especially if the other guy is doing something (like driving a bus). If you’re such an intrepid traveler just get a phone with a gps and check it out yourself.

Reply

prithviraj33 August 16, 2012 at 3:51 am

Wow the boards and the comments are dead these days.

Reply

Shiriki August 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Hi Prithviraj33,

Presently Sharell is unavailable but she hopes to return soon!

Please excuse the delay in responding as I was also away for some time.

Thanks!
Shiriki Tauro
Blog/Forum Moderator

Reply

prithviraj33 August 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

Is she ok?

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 23, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I’m fine thanks. We moved house and I didn’t have internet for over a week. Only just got it today! I have so much catching up to do.

Reply

Mukul August 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Relieved to see you back in action Sharell. Had been sipping on the ayurvedic chai for long ;)

Reply

Sharell शारेल August 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Soon, you will be entertained with my house hunting and shifting travails….so maybe you can sit and read with a cup of ayurvedic chai. :-P

Reply

prithviraj33 August 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

Cool! I was worried

Reply

Laura August 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Vinod: In Indian context, it becomes necessary for every person to show his power either explicitly or subtly. The conductor gets power due to his knowledge.
That’s a revelation to me. This is true in Australia, too, in certain contexts. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Reply

Debabrata March 7, 2013 at 2:03 am

I think I would have answered the question then I would have asked, “Where do you want to go?” Though it might seem that it is an intrusive question but I think it is mostly is reasonable to ask. Rather than looking at it from the negative perspective I can give you at least two reason why this may shed positive light upon us Indians. First of all it shows that we care to answer and are interested in helping. Many Indians will go out of the way to help you with direction (even if you are not white. Bur be warned that all do not bear the right intention). I have often been accompanied by people to a certain distance, when they think think that their explanation is ambiguous. Secondly, I don’t think that most Indians have the time to loiter so when you ask someone where the any path goes it is often deduced that the person asking is unsure of his/her bearings. In such a situation the most pertinent question is : Where do you want to go? Thirdly (I said at least not at most), many paths often lead to more than one destination. Buses often carry you to many places along a single route. So rather than listing a number of places a path could lead to it is far more economical to ask and answer on whether where you want to go is where the path leads. Reasonable enough?

Reply

Marie December 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I have had people ask this question. I tell them where the road ends up, and even include where it could lead if they take a right or left. I live in a small town in the USA and find myself using a lot of the “if you take a right by the huge rock” directions, like so many others here.

If someone asked me where does Interstate 95 go. That would depend where they asked the question. If we were in FL, I’d tell them it goes all the way to Maine. If in Georgia, well it goes to Maine and Florida.

I did ask where does this highway go while in India. I was told where it ends up.

A lady from Australia was on a bus from Dharamshala to Delhi. The bus stopped and the conductor yelled something in Hindi. She kindly asked “I’m sorry sir I don’t understand what you are saying?” I thought to myself, now is not the time to be so polite, as the conductor only kept repeating himself. I asked someone I knew that understood Hindi, what was the conductor saying. I was told, “The bus stops here, it goes no further.” I thought, what an odd thing to say? Normally in the states we’d be told “You’ve reached your destination, you can continue to such and such a place by doing this or that.”

I repeated verbatim to her what I was told and then asked the very alone lady where was she going? By this time a cab driver had accosted her and kept telling her “We will find your guide.” I thought no way can i leave this lady in Delhi, alone, with an unknown man. (I wouldn’t have left her alone in New York City either.) Anyways, she told me that this man (aka taxi driver) was going to help her find her guide. The guide was supposed to meet her at the bus stop and hadn’t shown up. (great! not!) All I could think of was, my god what if something happens to her. Every time I tried to explain to her that she could come with me and my friend to go get her guide for free or I’d sit here and wait until her guide showed up , the driver stopped me from talking. She ended up saying “He (aka the taxi driver) is going to find my guide, I will be ok.” A bit off topic I guess, but I still worry today if this lady made it to her guide safely. It just made me so nervous to think of a single lady, in Delhi, alone, unable to speak the local language. I haven’t read of any rapes or killings of any foreigners in that time period, so I assume she’s safe.

I think the answer depends more on if you’re from a small city or large city then from what country you’re from. I guess I’ll have to ask the people in rural villages next time I go to India “where does this road go”, to see the answer i get?

Reply

Leave a Comment