Thursday, August 26, 2010


There is nothing that causes me to panic more, or more often, than my nonexistent sense of direction. This includes creepy rodents with hairless tails and difficult math questions, and both of these things cause me to panic substantially. Thanks to the fact that I don't live near open sewers and also own a calculator, my (lack of) sense of direction is a considerably larger barrier to my sanity than anything else at this point.

Nobody really understands my predicament. I promise I am not mentally challenged or completely zoned-out all the time. Even though I admit I may never win prizes for being observant, I am not a complete space cadet, though I am frequently accused of it. In fact, I am a reasonably intelligent, competent human being in other areas of my life. The fact that I am having to defend myself against the cruel accusation of being slightly stupid however, should tell you something about how often people doubt my IQ when I am asked to direct them anywhere.

People have attributed various reasons for my handicap: not bothering to read maps, not looking out of the window often enough when I'm being driven around, not knowing how to drive myself, having an underdeveloped left brain. None of these are (entirely) true. I do in fact read maps, and I try my level best to make sense of them. It completely escapes me as to why they should make any sense to me. Roads are never empty lines, no matter how I try to see them as squiggles and curves on a piece of paper. After studying a map of where I need to go, I can convince myself that I am capable of finding my way, until I am actually on the road. You see, real roads have cars and trucks and donkeys and pedestrians and billboards. Maps don't. I've been told I'm imaginative, but I cannot, cannot imagine a place in order to effectively minimize it and place it in a larger context. The debris of real life gets in my way and prevents me from doing it.

Another accusation I need to battle on a regular basis is that I am oblivious to directions because I am not a true Karachiite; I am simply a product of a sheltered suburb who chooses to ignore the rest of the beleaguered city. This doesn't make any sense if you really think about it. You see, I am as capable of getting lost in my own neighbourhood as I am anywhere else in the world. Also, thanks to a job that requires me to file city crime briefs for eight hours a day, I promise you I probably know more about what goes on in this city than you do. Just don't ask me to map the damn crimes, whether they happen on one side of Kala Pull or another. That's what specialized software is for.

Today I was absolutely sure I should not rely on my own senses to direct me to my own workplace, so I decided to use my mother's directions. That was a bad idea. My mother has slightly more confidence in my intelligence than others, and she seemed to assume that I can tell left from right and know one road from another. I can't. I don't. Not that I don't know where I work. It's where the DHA Bachat Bazaar signs end, across the street from the girls who are collecting donations for flood relief, near a Remaine billboard, where there are usually a few trucks and tankers and a lot of traffic. There is usually also at least one police officer harassing an old man or two there, and a big bridge which I can't name because I think of it as The Big Bridge, and knowing names of places never got me anywhere, anyway. Unfortunately, the vital flaw in my plan for remembering directions is that nearly everything I use to orient myself is movable. Is it my fault others are so unreliable?

I admit it might be a good idea to learn the name of the road across the street from where I live, just for the sake of general knowledge. The only reason I haven't bothered with that yet is because I couldn't put it on a map for you if you wanted, and I can easily direct you to my house because of the luckily unmovable mosque very close by. Please don't ever ask me abstract questions such as "so if I'm coming from Clifton Beach, would I take a right or a left from X road to get to your house?" Please spare me the humiliation. I know that this handicap/phobia/stupidity of mine is not commonplace and not understood by the average person. Nothing makes me feel as small and stupid as having to answer these difficult queries. Nothing makes the panic rise through my stomach and into my throat as fast as knowing that in a minute or two, any credibility I had as a capable adult will be destroyed. Just don't do it to me.

Also, don't worry about me. Don't suggest that in the absence of a vital understanding of roads and maps, I will be lost and floundering in the Real World like a sorry little girl who can't find her way home.

After all, the people and bazaar signs and police officers are almost always there when I need them to be.