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Driving to Sharjah on a Thursday afternoon

Bikram Vohra
Filed on November 12, 2019 | Last updated on November 12, 2019 at 08.03 pm

I have been in Dubai 35 years and if I have to fetch someone from the airport I still get nervous because I could end up anywhere but.

I suffer from spatial disorientation. I say suffer advisedly because other people laugh at me or mock the condition. Only other acute SD sufferers can understand what it is like to be so afflicted. What it means is that people like us have no sense of direction. We can get lost on a straight road. Give us a string of traffic cones, a detour sign, or a changed scenario and the odds are we will lose our way.

For us, a GPS voice saying keep left, keep left, is like a nerve-wracking pressure point and 'take a right after 300 metres' is packed with tension. Now, normal people do not appreciate our lack of a compass and think we are faking it.

The other day I was driving to my friend Surender's house in Emirates Hills and have been there only 50 times. I took the wrong turning and had to hire a cab to follow to get back on track. Hiring cabs and tagging on their shirt-tails is quite a common habit with me.

Once, I picked up my kids out of Bahrain airport and drove away from Manama. I have had to miss a class I was teaching at Academic City because I drove past the turning and ended up finally in Design District, don't ask me how.

One day, I had to pick up my daughter from this hotel near Wafi which I could see right smack, dab in front of me, this huge edifice but I could not reach it and my daughter, tired of waiting in the lobby, took a cab to come fetch me.

I have been in Dubai 35 years and if I have to fetch someone from the airport I still get nervous because I could end up anywhere but.

And it was this doughty adventurer who this Thursday afternoon decided to go to the Sharjah Book Fair for three very good reasons. I had a signing of my book at 7.20 pm and someone had kindly put my name on the record number of authors signing a letter for the Guinness Book and then my colleague Suresh Pattali was having his brilliantly written book Write Feelings released and had asked me to say a few words.

We left the KT office at 5.40 pm and my wife decided in a rare moment to come with me and she is a whizz at roads and can remember a place even if we have only been once five years ago. I have only once tried to upstage her going to The Park and driving back at night in the opposite direction insisting I was right.

If you are so right, my wife said with asperity, why is the Burj Khalifa receding in the back.

All was good till Garoud. Now, all we had to do was follow the lava of traffic as it flowed sluggishly towards Sharjah. But this disembodied lady on the GPS has no concept of the density of the jam or the delay and the one we had on the front of the car was different from the one my wife was using. So we had contradictory data coming in and then the Voice said, keep left, stay left, go left so we dutifully did and that is where it all began to unravel.

Now we were in another river but going in the wrong direction and the Voice was now pronouncing the roads all wrong and yes, my SD was kicking in and let me tell you right here and now that the reason why Thursday evening into Sharjah is an intrepid exercise is because people cut lanes. From the fourth lane to the first literally at parallel angles to the direction of the rest. Then like raging bulls the bigger vehicles bully their way into your track causing you great anguish. Fender benders occur with regularity because when you drive so inconsiderately you increase the chances of bouncing off another vehicle. Sure enough, the car in front of us is whacked by this huge SUV and now they do not move out of the way but block the blocked traffic so the Vohra vehicle now tries be smart and wriggles past the marooned cars and obeys the second voice which says 51 minutes to destination take shortest route which we now do by throwing a right and next thing you know we are going away from Sharjah and looking for an exit left of stage. Chased by a bear.

-bikram@khaleejtimes.com


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