London taxi

You get into an auto in Bangalore….Eenree? elli hoga beku??? You pray to the gods before you tell the guy ‘take me to 1st block Kormangala’. The driver sits in that famous ‘half bum cheek on the seat’ pose, 45deg to the steering handle (I have never figured out why, my friend Madan told me that it came from Lamby scooter (Lamby had the engine on one side – so u have to offset yourself to balance it) drivers) he either does so straight away by the fastest & shortest route (Am I lucky today!) or he asks you which route you want to take, - ‘route gotha? Do you know the way?’ or if he finds you gullible enough (e.g. newbie off island express), by the longest possible route at ‘onthu arai’ ‘1andhalf’ fare..

So what should it be like in London?

Before being allowed to light their for hire sign, London's taxi drivers must pass a series of rigorous exams to prove they have committed to memory every street, major building and open space within a 10-km radius of the city centre and be able to recite a set litany of 320 routes or "runs" — in both directions. This feat of memory is so daunting that it is capitalized as "the Knowledge," and scientists have found that in order to accommodate such a vast mental map, the posterior hippocampus of a London cabbie's brain, the bit responsible for spatial memory and navigation, actually grows bigger than those of mere humans. Read on at Self Knowledge from Time Magazine, July 6th

The 'Knowledge of London' was introduced in 1851 by Sir Richard Mayne after complaints that cab drivers did not know where they were going. Passing the Knowledge involves detailed recall of 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross station. The locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, railway stations, parks, theatres, courts, restaurants, colleges, government buildings and places of worship are also required. It can take three years to pass the test, including the six months it takes to be tested.

I did not know all this, but I started to think about the plight of the Indian or Bangladeshi émigré planning this test!! You complain of children having to cram so much for their tests, how would it be for a 30-40 year old man deciding to become a hackney-cab driver in London?

P.S Now did you know that old British law (I don’t think it does these days) permitted British hackney drivers to pee, on cab wheels/tyres?


Anonymous said...

How about the Gujju Grandma getting prepared for the US citizen ship questions - in NY Area?
Fisrt President of USA - George WASHINGTON bridge
Civil war President? - LINCOLN tunnel

etc. etc.


Anonymous said...

well well...that is another way to remember/memorize i guess