Writing Challenge: Map it out. The Slow Motion, Black and White movie


This is India?

Perusing it’s highways and streets from google maps, one would not find much remarkable about it.  There is nothing special that sticks out to compel one to look closer or think  a little more deeply about what the land and people are like.  All one can see at first glance are those squiggly criss-crossing  lines of different colors intersecting each other among a non-nondescript,  almost drab landscape of tepid green and brown.  The only landmark in this particular map that catches the eye slightly is the  river Ganges.  Its parabolic stretch to the east of Varanasi draws the attention for a moment; one may notice the in-congruent  widths of beach that line the east shore, or else the stark contrast of its natural dark blue waters to the synthetic yellow lineation  that symbolizes train track.

Oh!  What meaningless plasticity this map presents to the mind! Cartography of this kind alienates ourselves from the reality of what it purports to show us, all the while oppressing and boring the actuality of the earth and the life upon it.  With its cold data and inert  accuracy it builds a facade of lifelessness below.  Nothing but measurement and exactitude  can be ascertained, though this is nothing but fraud of the worst degree.  It is lie built upon lie. The map tells us that there is no movement upon the earth;  that the elements of destruction, creation, and maintenance are not at work to continue the unending dance of life.   This is, of course, ludicrous.  This is like pretending that all there is in the universe is the random vibration of particles in a complete vacuum of chaos and indeterminate energy exchange.

And so, looking upon this map, and seeing it for what it is – a misrepresentation of singularity – we can establish its inability to recreate anything meaningful about which it purports to embody.  Having done so, we can quickly set it aside and dismiss it as a useless tool for real information.  Let us instead use something that helps us understand what India is.  That something is, in truth, the only thing that we can use, because anything else falls horribly short.   And that something is experience.  

Let us embark then, onward to experience India, in all its facets and splendorous traces.  +++

As any good guide would prepare you thoroughly for a journey ahead in which he is to lead and protect you, and as he would also, during the sojourn itself, continually lead you along the best routes and highlight certain areas while downplaying or even excluding others so as to maximize your adventure, I too, shall do these things.  It matters little that our sensory organs to experience India are composed of the mind, or that the vehicle to travel through India is the words that I write and that you read.   The same essential principles apply, we just have to be a little inventive in the process of applying them.  And so, allow me to be your guide on your trip to India.  You will experience it much more fully than looking at it through Google Maps. `

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15 thoughts on “Writing Challenge: Map it out. The Slow Motion, Black and White movie

  1. India is fascinating. Been there once and now I always thinking of going there again. I used Google Maps too to go anywhere but realized in India you need more than maps. You need a smile, a friendly way in dealing with auto drivers and importantly a poker face saying ‘no’ to all the vicious street vendors and beggars just so they will leave tugging your shirt along with u. Oh, I had a great time!

  2. India is truly a land of contrasts – it can be beautiful and disgusting, its people trustworthy and deceitful, its landscapes lush and barren, behaviour conscientious and depraved. Whichever part of this India you experience, it will be interesting and worthy of a post, I think. So, wish you all the best!

  3. Trust me, in India, the last thing you would want to use is the Maps. We recently tried it in a big city and failed terribly although we did it just to test the Google Maps app in our phone. As you have said, all you need to do is to poke your head out of your vehicle and ask someone and you will end up in your place much faster.

  4. I have a great love of maps and had to work on GIS setups in their infancy so found the genesis of Google maps a marvel. But as far as travelling goes I agree – forget it – knowing exactly where you are has nothing to do with it. Disorientation is the best thing for anyone keen on discovery. I’ll look forward to your true tales of India!

  5. Before I moved to Jaipur for an internship a year ago, the first thing I did was “Google Map” the house my employer had arranged for me and the address of what would be my office. I was a little confused when I couldn’t find a location for either. When I arrived in the city, I didn’t see a map for six months! A few times, I tried showing addresses to autorickshaw drivers, who I soon found out, couldn’t read. I realized that Indians rely on word-of-mouth for directions and the best way to get somewhere is to know what the nearest landmark is and go from there. And don’t be surprised if you ask someone and they “pretend” to know the right way … Good luck!

  6. Welcome to my country! And yes, Google Maps is not effective in India at all – if you want to get anywhere, always ask – most people are quite helpful. Have a great trip!

  7. I visited Varanasi last October and it haunts me still. Walking through streets stifling with faith and hope but overflowing with filth and detritus requires a 19th century response from my 21st century mentality. There is so much to understand that is outside my understanding.

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