Moments: Navigating a New City with a New Language

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly every day I traveled in India there were interesting adventures in Hindi practice: One of my favourites happened not long after I arrived at the Mumbai airport after a lovely and easy flight from Jaipur. There was a nice meal and even a short nap on the plane. Smooth and easy baggage claim and booked a cab easy as pie for a nice fixed price.

I find the car really easily and all is good. And then I tell the driver the address. “Bandra West? Bandra West malum?”

Wait, do I know where Bandra West is? This is my first trip to Mumbai. (For my Toronto friends, imagine someone at the airport saying they don’t know how to get to King and Spadina, for instance or what the High Park neighbourhood is)

Time to get creative. I fire up Google Maps. Except my work isn’t done then. The driver motions for me to move up front and take shotgun position. Off we go. Oh, and no English allowed – this driver speaks about as much English as I do Italian. A couple of words and that’s the end of it.

So there we are: Google’s voice speaking to me, my brain changing it to Hindi, giving updates as to how many kilometres or metres come before the next turn – what direction. He’s operating the car and of course the horn and even occasionally nudging the car in front of us with his front bumper.

30 minutes later here we are – at the apartment. He drops me off. Easiest navigation yet.

And as we did this I can’t help but think how glad I was I studied some of my basic numbers before coming here.

I have to say, I really miss the interesting opportunities for language practice that would present themselves several times a day.

One thought on “Moments: Navigating a New City with a New Language

  1. Sometimes it feels strange when taxi driver says they don’t know the cities prominent area. Because Bandra is very famous for Bollywood and most filmstars live that area.
    Yesterday I had the same experience I had asked about Naturopathy center that comes on Ambedkar Road just behind Pune railway station and it was established before or Mahatma Gandhi’s time.
    The auto driver said that he didn’t know it and I asked him that you were knew in Pune in Marathi.
    He said that he has been living since 38 years and I shocked but later his ego woke up and he took me there without asking me further.
    I noticed so many times they know the place but they will prefer they don’t know why still I don’t understand it.

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