It was nearing 7.00 p.m. I along with my family were at Andheri west (a Mumbai Suburb) and decided to visit a relative around three kms away. We looked at the Google Map and it showed a time span of nine minutes and the route. I was driving.
We started and soon found ourselves in a narrow and winding road and in the midst of a fish market. We asked for directions and they waved the hand in an upward direction. At a narrow turn, in true Indian Tradition, there were vehicles bearing down on us with seemingly no place to go. This is where Indian ingenuity sprang up. One old gentle man directed us upwards with only millimetre of space to spare. My family members were sitting with their hearts in the mouth. Only my granddaughter was staring with curiosity at the antics of adults.
My car cleared this obstacle and we were then perched on a steep ascent with some vehicles behind. The Google map was referred to and we took a turn which soon landed us on the top of a hill with a temple on it. There was a taxi unloading some goods. I was wondering where we had reached, when my family members started screaming about a vehicle reversing suddenly towards us. I immediately pushed the accelerator and moved ahead with seconds to spare. If the vehicle (an SUV) had dashed on us, there would have been immense damage to vehicle and perhaps to passengers.
The people on that hill top kindly gave us the directions to go to our destination and also mentioned that the Gaodevi (Village Goddess) temple was a powerful temple. We were shaken with the journey so far and the near miss accident. We offered our mental prayers and thanks to the deity and proceeded to the destination.
What I found out later was that there is a perfectly good road to our destination. But for some reason, the Google Map persists in showing a route which is perhaps visible only in the satellite. At ground level, it is hardly a road for any kind of vehicle.
I realized that blind trust on such digital devices (Digital India is our dream) without prior physical corroboration can lead to such disastrous situations. If we are going to an unknown place, it makes sense to check with someone at the destination whether the road we see on the Google Map actually exists, is motorable and whether there are any better roads. My son told me of a similar instance where he trusted the Google Map and landed up travelling though rough village roads with cattle roaming and even crossing a river on a ferry along with the car.
It is also a lesson that when you are not certain, using a public transport of any form is safer than adventure driving.
What however remains embedded in my heart is the moment where I averted the SUV dashing against our car. I believe that it was divine intervention more than anything else.
So no blind trust on Google Maps, discriminating and knowledge based use of vehicle when going to unknown places and above all ensuring that God is on your side.
While the first two are within our hands, the last one would remain an unceasing endeavour.