Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to use a GPS in Karachi

"Phi, see that Ice Berg sign?" Cuz no 1's wife (let's call her Bhabi, since she called me that to all the vendors she bartered with on my behalf). "That's where you need to tell the driver to take you tomorrow to pick up your sari blouses. Say, Ice Berg ke saamne (across from Ice Berg). She pointed at the blue billboard. "The tailor is across the street, see? We're all back at work, you're on your own tomorrow. Got it?"

"Ice Berg," I scrawled into my trusty notebook.

"And see that sign saying Pak Jewelers? Turn into the next gulley after that sign and after the first intersection, that's where you pick up your saris, okay?"

"Pak Jewelers, next gulley," I wrote, glancing at the gulley lined with fabric, hair accessories, chaatwalas, shoewallas and teawalas. "Got it."

At dinner that night, Bhabi even showed me where the agyari (where Zoroastrians pray) was, and I added it to my list, just like via points on my Garmin GPS back home.

The next day, I ventured into Saddar/Bori Bazaar with my notebook-cum-GPS. Uncle no 3's driver, a good friend of mine by this point as he'd been driving me around for three weeks, was told to go to the petticoat shop, but pulled up in front of the agyari. "Reroute, reroute". I only knew how to navigate to the agyari from via point number two, the  Pak Jewelers gulley. I stared at gulley before me: fabric, hair accessories, looked exactly the same as all the others.

While rerouting, I decided to go ahead and pray (and make notes on the agyari for the book, but also pray...). I lit a diva in the showcase beside the water well in the back. As a child, standing on my tiptoes and peering into its depths was a highlight of the agyari visit, till Mum or Dad shooed us away for being sacreligious. Inside the building, I put in some rupees into the donation box, pushing the money down with a ruler, another childhood thrill. I sat in the cool of main hall and watched the Atash Behram crackle in its chamber. And who should be sitting beside me at the agyari but uncle no 3's mother in law.

Back outside, Uncle's M-I-L's driver, who recalled me from my childhood, was rerouting Uncle's own driver on how to get to the Pak Jewelers sign. Just like that,  I was "arriving at destination, on right". Backtracked from the Pak Jeweler's sign  and found "Perfect Match" sari petticoat wallas shop, situated perfectly after the intersection. Piece of cake.

We set off to the next via point, the blouse tailor, and again, 'wrong turn, rerouting' was needed. Driver didn't know where Ice Berg was.

He rolled down the window and asked, "Hello, A-is Buh-rugh kidhar hai?" to several passers by but no one knew.

I tried helping out by pronouncing the name correctly, but, as I was later told with that amused 'you're such a foreigner' headshake, this only confused the locals even more. A quick call to Bhabi didn't solve the problem like it usually did, since she had decided to focus on her job that day.

Think, think, think...

"Hi, Cuz 1? Can you get Aunty's number for me, the one who knows the sari blouse tailor? I can't find the Ice Berg sign...wait."

Like a, well, Ice Berg out of the blue, the sign appeared which meant, yes, there was the tailor across the street.

"When possible, make U-turn", said my inner GPS. Aray bhai, in Karachi, when is a u-turn not possible?

The driver was jubilant. "I knew it was in this direction, I just knew it." His eyes danced in the rear-view mirror.

As I "arrived at final destination, on right", my head bobbed side to side along with his in sweet victory.