Clueless on the Coromandel

A RECENT two-day trip to Tranquebar (Tarangambadi) on the southern Coromandel made me conscious once again about how far we, in Tamil Nadu, have to go to become tourist - even traveller - friendly. All my life, the car or bus has been my favourite mode of travel to explore whichever country I've been to. And I still do much of my travelling in South India by car.

With the highways improving and car ownership increasing, more and more people are doing the same. And the numbers are only going to increase. But my recent trip to Tranquebar indicated that the Authority has a long way to go to make road travel easier and faster.

It's not the roads that I'm complaining about along that 200 km drive, but the signposting. By and large, that's not bad along the highway, though it does become a problem after sunset, pointing to the necessity for luminous signboards, at least at crucial junctions. But what left me clueless was how to get into and out of Pondicherry.

Finding the right roads took us half an hour on the way out and an hour on the way in - and then we found ourselves on NH-45, far from the East Coast Road! At the end of it all, I still haven't a clue how to get from the East Coast Road to the Cuddalore road and vice versa! Is there a bypass around the maze of one-way streets in Pondicherry or, if there isn't, how do you negotiate Pondicherry's gridded core to and from the two highways linking it with Madras?

Coming into Madras, it struck me that a stranger on the road would only be marginally better. Where are the signs in the city pointing the way to the highways to Bangalore or Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli and Calcutta? Outside the city, on the highway, where are the signs that point to where the bypasses will lead you? Indeed, signposting must be as much, if not more, for the long-distance traveller as for the city resident - and so long as we don't do such signing, we are far from being tourist or traveller-friendly.

Signposting in a city for entry into it and exit from it to other towns and cities is as important as signposting the way to areas in the city (that no stranger will in any event know). But the Authority does not seem to worry too much about such conveniences.


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