I have problems getting around Vadodara (I prefer Baroda somehow, so I shall stick to that). The streets of Baroda have no names. And if they do, not many use them. For someone like me who has stayed in Mumbai, where the authorities put in a lot of effort to name and re-name streets every year, this comes as a rude shock. I know the areas - Alkapuri, Sayajiganj, Racecourse Circle, Old Padra Road, etc but there's no way I can find a particular building without asking the locals for directions. Only the way to the station is obvious - just follow the direction Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue points to.
I thought a map would help, but I haven't been able to find one I can use. When I told Elton about it, he suggested I go to my nearest desktop instead of a bookstore. "Check out wikimapia or google earth...it's all there, man. And it's better than what you get in the stores," he said. I reasoned, "For technologically-challenged people like me who want to explore the bylanes of a city like Baroda, I think I need a detailed printed map that I can show people if I am lost." Elton wasn't impressed. He prefers GPS on his phone.
I asked an uncle whether he could organise a map for me. After checking up with a few of his acquaintances he didn't sound too hopeful. He then tried his contact at the Vadodara Municipal Corporation. Yes, we could find a map of Baroda in the Corporation's diary. Only, it would be in Gujarati. What use is a map in Gujarati for someone who's new to Gujarat, I thought.
I then decided to try my luck at the Gujarat Tourism Corporation office at Narmada Bhavan. I called them up and a polite male voice told me that they would be really glad to provide me the maps and all other assistance I needed. I headed straight there. I was greeted by a woman receptionist who was more interested in the Gujarat Samachar than me. I asked her for a map of Baroda and she flinched. "We don't have maps of Baroda here. You can find them at any bookstore. We have a map but it is very small and not detailed. If you are ok with it, you can pay us Rs 10 and have it," she said. I didn't have much of a choice. Thankfully, she had a relatively detailed map of Gujarat in store. I purchased that too.
I then thought of checking out whether Umakant bookstore at Alkapuri would have them. On my way there, I stopped by a small bookstore near the railway station. "You will get maps on Baroda only in Raopura. Nowhere else," he said. Strange.On my way to Alkapuri, the driver stopped by another bookshop. He decided to check for himself this time - I had harassed him enough. He came back with a small booklet with Vadodara written in Gujarati. It opened up to a very well-detailed map of the city. The only glitch - it was in Gujarati. Still, I thought it was better to have a map in the local language than not one at all. It was a really good one and it cost just Rs 40, after all.
An architect-friend suggested I try out Landmark store near Inox (yes, malls are the landmarks here). Sure they had lots of maps - Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Mumbai, Rajasthan, Kerala, Goa, Bihar, UP, India, and even New York. But Baroda - again in Gujarati. I asked them for English maps. A salesman told me, "This year, for the first time a detailed map of Baroda had been published in English. But the publishers hadn't expected such a demand and we've had lots of orders pending. You don't see many tourists here so you don't expect people to buy maps. Most people who come visiting know someone here who takes them around." Seeing the disappointment on my face, he suggested, "You can buy a map of Baroda in Gujarati, if you want." No, I'll wait.