Maps are made by men, of course. To prove my theory, I googled the first map maker and it was a Greek man named Anaximander. He made a map of the known world in 6 Century BC. He is said to have drawn an earth that was cylindrical. Anaximander is considered the first cartographer. The oldest map of the world is the Babylonian map of the world known as Imago Mundi. Apparently, it was the Greeks who made maps on ‘sound mathematical footing.’
The Renaissance was an age deeply interested in map making. That should come as no surprise considering what a great age of discovery of ‘new’ lands and colonisation it was. Shakespeare in his play, ‘The Tempest’ voiced concerns over the way colonisation had affected the natives. Caliban, the surly halfling, mouths this by saying that Prospero had taught him to speak, and he, Caliban, put his knowledge of language into cursing. The fact remains that new worlds were ‘discovered’ and even more maps were made and mapping became a way of life.
Maps were made by men, maps are possibly still being made by men, which is why many women have a problem with reading maps. That is an exaggeration, but a good seventy percent of it might hold true. In the non-western world I conclude that we haven’t been given sufficient skills to read maps, and orient ourselves using the help of maps. Is that correct? Do other women have as much trouble as me in using a map. Getting hopelessly lost in cities and needing to be guided back to one’s hotel is a predicament that many of us non-citywallahs share. Recently, we were discussing the difficulty of using maps and figuring out how to get around new places. I don’t want to believe it is a female thing, but many women friends agree with me on this score. Could it be that maps are made by men using male logic, which is why women have difficulty reading maps and making them work for them? In a new place, I instantly look for landmarks and try to memorise them. The tree with the crooked branch, the house with a red roof, turn left at the cold drinks stall and you will find a half-constructed building just before the next street begins, stay on it until you see a gurudwara. Now look for a banyan tree that is growing directly in front of a four-storey building and that will be it. That is how my internal mapping works. It’s not fool-proof, because when Iam flying past in an autorickshaw, the objects I use to find my way home move past too quickly and that loss results in not finding the address I need.
Many women use landmarks personal to them. I knew a girl who would use shops as her landmarks; go right from the H and M store, and when you keep walking straight ahead for about four minutes, you will see the shoe store, count two buildings from shoe store which is bang opposite the Body Shop, and take the stairs to the second floor. Voila! It worked for her. Another one gets stressed when told to walk in the direction of the north. ‘I don’t know where North is!’ she shouts in frustration. I feel her. Compass? Do they still sell them?
Making maps more people-friendly and in the main, more female-friendly would get my vote. I do confess great admiration for those people who can use a map in a place they have never been to before and can find their destination. Many young Nagas can do this. So, its not a western/non-western thing either. Forget what I said earlier! I remember once getting lost in a new city, and my drummer sitting at his hotel guided me back with the help of his satellite map. He gave me street names to look out for, and landmarks like statues and fountains to look for until I had covered about two kilometres to reach my own hotel. I thought it was nothing short of brilliance that he was able to do that. People who can’t use maps will always be in awe of those who can. But if they can invent a map using female logic, we would all be out buying those maps!