“What's the landmark, Madame?” This is a question I’m asked on almost a daily basis by couriers, delivery and repair men, and taxi drivers. A written address is not enough to go by in Bangalore. House numbers, mains and crosses don’t seem to count. However landmarks do.
I had quickly learnt that Bangalore’s complex system of numbered main roads and cross streets is not as logical as it first seems. Though you’d expect 5th Main Road to come after 4th Main Road, sometimes some numbers just disappear. So after 4th Main you’ll find 6th Main and you wonder what happened to 5th Main. Or you expect the road after 10th Cross to be 11th Cross, but all of a sudden you get 10th A Cross, 10th B Cross, 10th C Cross and you have to walk for blocks before you finally come to 11th Cross.
Then there’s the numbering system for houses and buildings. There are old numbers and new numbers. The new numbers were supposed to of course replace the old numbers. But some people still use the old numbers, while others have adopted the new ones. So both are used. To make things more complicated, these numbers are not always chronological either. And unlike the system in many countries, where odd numbers will be on one side of the street and even numbers on the other side, this doesn’t apply here.
To add another layer to this confusing web, many neighbourhoods or localities have different ‘stages’ or ‘blocks’: so there’s Indiranagar 1st Stage and Indiranagar 2nd Stage and Jayanagar 1st block, 2nd block, etc… As a result, addresses look like this: Old no. 28/312, New No. 4, 4th Main Road, 1st Cross, Indiranagar 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560037. The only person who has mastered this complicated system of old and new numbers, Mains, Crosses, Phases, Stages and Blocks is the postman. Everyone else needs landmarks.
Landmarks are like helpful hints to help you crack the puzzle. So on some addresses you’ll see: ‘Opposite Corporation Bank’, or ‘Behind Bata Showroom’, or ‘Near Jain School’, or ‘Diagonally Opposite Nilgiris Supermarket’. If the bank, school or supermarket closes at any point, you’re in trouble!
So when a courier company called yesterday morning to say they had a letter for me, (can you guess why it’s mandatory to give the addressee’s phone number to courier companies?), I was invariably asked: “What’s the landmark?” I gave the usual directions I have recited over a thousand times. Later that afternoon, I realised the letter had still not arrived. Feeling something was amiss, I called the courier office and they gave me the mobile number of the ‘courier boy’. I called him up and asked when he was going to deliver the letter. “I gave it to Mrs Gita, your employee in your office,” he informed me, to my surprise. I do not have an office or an employee called Gita… but I had a feeling where my letter ended up. He had delivered it to the office next door! So despite my detailed directions and description of all the neighbourhood ‘landmarks’, the letter still had not reached me!