It took me four tries to learn how to drive. No, no. Not four mere classes or sessions at the wheel, but four different instructors.
With my brother’s wonderfully wide car left in our ‘able’ hands and with dad’s increasing knee and hip problems, it was time I stepped up to learn how to handle the silver Swift.
I was first enrolled in the local driving school that was oddly called ‘International’. It was no way close to one. Getting up earlier and trudging down for these classes not only made me cranky, but quite ineffective with my motor skills. The instructor had a set of pedals on his side, and the left side view mirror was always adjusted to his view. Not that I blame him, but it tended to impair me. The first day started with behind the wheel. And boy, the kind of power that’s running through your hand is no joke. It was scary. Changing the gears were a problem, I kept looking at them, and I never really understood the clutch. I couldn’t complete my lot of evening classes thanks to my crazy work schedule, but over all, ‘International’ was done with me and I was able to at least earn the title of a ‘driver’.
But I was still scared. I feared even backing the car from the parking lot. Our society is like an overcrowded rectangle, with families having at least two cars each. It took enough trouble to stay in a straight line down the empty road, but to wind my way through the society and out on to the street was one big task. I once took off a person’s headlight, but he saw I was a learner and clearly he had parked wrong. So thankfully, not one word was exchanged but this petrified me even more.
Then my uncle came along, who is an expert in this field. Some people don’t realise they can be a very good driver, but the art of instruction is very different. My cousin sister O tagged along. She’s few months younger to me, so my uncle tried to instruct her as well in this whole exercise. O would often dose off in the backseat, a scene clearly visible in the rear view mirror. He got me speeding quite easily on the large roads and highways, and after I was done, he’d ask O to oblige. But this never quite cured me of overcoming my fear.
My father then enrolled me in another driving school that worked on international standards, offering lecture classes, simulation and then, a comprehensive session at the real deal. This was the time, when I finally understood the working of the clutch and how to exactly work it. They were better than the other driving school, but towards the end, instructors would always go batty.
It was time I got some daily practice, so dad enlisted the help of the car wash guy. Every day, he would sit beside me with dad in tow, and I would drive through office rush to the metro station a little farther from home. With his quiet and calm demeanor, and subtle lessons in managing speed in heavy traffic, I slowly got the hang of it. Other instructors think that being able to drive at high speed on empty roads early in the morning is the key to it all. They’re wrong. The essential part lies in controlling the speed, steering, over taking, finding your space in the huge clunk of traffic.
It’s been an arduous journey, and I’m still scared. I certainly avoid getting stuck on an inclined plane. Somewhere, in the great scheme of things, I had thought it would be my brother teaching me how to drive. It was his responsibility and duty to pass on certain life skills to me, but sadly I didn’t get that honour. And yet, every time I’m behind the wheel of his beloved car, I whisper a small prayer to him to guide me safely back home.