Ranjona Banerji | You can still be lost in era of map apps!

The Asian Age.  | Ranjona Banerji

Opinion, Columnists

Exploring the Delights and Dilemmas of Getting Lost in the Jungle Safari

Navigating the jungle of apps: Lost in technology, found in adventure. (AA File Image)

Getting lost for many is a romantic concept.

I want to get lost in your eyes.

I want to give up my hectic life and just lose myself in the countryside.

You know how it goes.

As if someone else’s eyes will save you from domestic humdrum. Because if you find yourself after you get lost and then take that act of losing to its logical social conclusion, you will soon know why Bruno Bettelheim wrote that all fairy tales end with “they all lived happily after” because there is no such thing as continued domestic bliss.

That’s his thought but not mine. But you can consider the joy of losing you way in days of endless nappy-changes and wonder whether you made the right decision about getting lost in someone’s eyes one romantic night…

Getting lost in the countryside, now that is another story.

I live in a sort of countryside. But I also barricade myself from the countryside — doors, windows, wire mesh, gates, walls. There are tales around me of leopard attacks and sightings. Now while I am firmly on the side of leopards in general, little children and dogs being grabbed and eaten are not conscionable side effects to leopards roaming about.

I do not want to lose myself in the countryside. And not just because of hungry predators. Plumbing for instance is a far bigger concern.

But that’s another story. This week, I spent a day on a “jungle safari”. To get lost in, er, wild life, Nature and such. In the safety of a moving jeep, with a guide and fellow travellers. The jungle safari is delightful and well-organised. You do not technically get lost because the drivers and guides know where to go. And if you have done it a few times, you pretend that you can recognize that tree and that riverbed and that hill. The guide will nod to keep the paying customer happy and then laugh his head off once you leave. Appearances must be kept up.

Not that I have any desire to get lost so that is not where I got lost anyway. I mean we, because I was the guide on the way and the way out of the jungle. As I got us loster and loster, my fellow passengers very kindly blamed the map app. Now we all know the map app and we all know that it works spectacularly well most of the time. It works even better where the roads are organized, and the user has some vague idea of where they ought to be going.

Anyway, these are my excuses and I’m sticking to them. The first is talking too much, which God alone knows I am often guilty of. Add to this listening, which I can also do (don’t laugh, I can and do this often). When you combine other people talking, then you miss that tiny little narrow left turn. Then the map app reroutes. The b%**#& thing doesn’t say “You fool you have done the wrong thing” which it should. Instead, it tries to find a way 6,000 km in another direction to get you to your destination three months later. This is especially frustrating since India is now full of fancy highways and flyovers with no exits just like “foreign”.

To make matters worse, the other car which has not made the same mistake keeps calling you just as you try to figure out what’s wrong. This is not helpful as counter and cross directions and instructions now abound. However, it is daytime, you are excited about the adventure ahead and what’s a little 15-minute detour amongst friends?

The safari is refreshing, soothing, exciting, invigorating. Some animals put on a show. Others are shy. Others still don’t make an appearance but provide the thrill of anticipation. The landscape is divine. All is well with the world.

Till it’s time to go home. What evil monkey brain takes over at this point? The one that ought to be lost in the crevices, of course. But no, out comes the wicked persona, filled with confidence and stupidity. It suggests another route altogether. It speaks with authority to lull the others into compliance. It proceeds with some success in spite of growing suspicion around it. There are no lights, no landmarks, only murky countryside and a long canal filled with water.

Ultimately, as ever under such circumstances, we are lost. Having spent the night after worrying about it, I know where I went wrong. The map app did not help, but the burden of responsibility cannot lie with technology. The user, the evil simian circuitry, the over-confidence — me in other words — was the main culprit and the problem.

As it happened, we were not delayed by more than an hour. But circumstances had changed. We were tired. We were a bit worried. We had no clue where we were or how we were going to reach where we had to reach. The jungle was well behind us; now we were ready for civilisation. Worse, we did not have the time and space to savour the “getting lost in the jungle” experience because of this new tension of getting lost in the dark.

One of the requirements of small-town India are tiny wiggly-windy concrete covered lanes where two cars cannot pass each other. Also, it is an unwritten requirement that scooters will be haphazardly parked so that they hinder even one vehicle from passing by. Into this you throw a crazed map app with a secret crush on impossible tiny lanes and a group of people frazzled, tired and so-not-wanting-to-be-lost. And let’s not forget the evil ape brain in control.

 We got ourselves out. We laughed and apologised. We festered and muttered behind clenched teeth. Later we will reminisce and laugh some more. And remember the beauty of a male tusker emerging out of the gloom of a fast-falling dusk. And the flash of a kingfisher’s blue and the startled look in the eyes of a faun…

But for now, anyone who wants to get lost in something? They can. Well. Get lost.