Driven Around The Bend

Posted July 1st, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Let me start at the beginning…..Driving was one of the things I had not thought about at all…but unfortunately all my cousin brothers voted vociferously for learning it quoting terms like “steering balance” and “sense of direction” and other driving cant!! Well So be it!! I went to this particular Motor training school and enrolled myself : a sacrificial goat at the altar of “the get ready for America ” syndrome.

The first day was ok . I came to grips where the clutch, brake and the accelerator was quite quickly…Of course applying it was another thing altogether!! By the time the trainer figured out that I was a total novice it was time for the session to end. But the trainer was a really unique character..He was the typical Hyderabadi with the classic Dakkani Hindi.

Now the actual driving…that was also a fun thing.. By the end of the third lesson we had already established the fact that steering sense is something I just did not have in my blood! He would say “Deepa ,gaadi right ki aur jaa rahi hai” and I would vehemently disagree “seedha hi to hai”. By this time this enlightening piece of conversation would be over ,the car would be ready to crash into the adjoining road divider…And then I would have to agree ( sheepishly though!!) ki gaadi right ki aur hi jaa rahi thi! It took quite some time before my car could stop doing an imitation of Herbie goes bananas!! It still does not go straight still but it is way better!!

By the time I could drive the car with a modicum of driving sense (the Hyderabadi called it just sense!!) Bombay was lashed with heavy rains! By the time we decided we had missed too many classes and that I still know zilch it was the turn Of Bal Thackeray to put a spoke in the wheel in the form of a few bandhsl!! Ofcourse a few days were lost due to visiting relatives and friends eager to make sure that I am really and truly leaving India.!!

Learning to drive in the rain-mauled streets of Bombay is another experience altogether. I wonder whether you have seen the back alleys of Agripada . The roads are hardly wide enough and the vehicles ply in both the directions. To add on to it there are “jhopadpattis “on both sides of the street and the children regard the whole area as their personal playground. Nothing terrified me more than those children scampering up across the street. I consider a great achievement that I sat in the drivers seat and didn’t run-over one of those swot-nosed kids. I hope that one of the first lessons these kids get is to recognize a vehicle from a training school. I think it is a very essential thing to learn early in life!

And the roads … they were snatches of roads between huge potholes. The rains actually create havoc with fallen trees adding to the barely traversable roads. I was so scared to drive through such streets I used to hardly press the accelerator.

I’ll need oodles of practice before I can actually drive with some amount of confidence. No wonder ,cos the times I have actually sat in the front seat of a car can be counted on my fingers. (let me discount the taxis because I always turned back to talk to the people with me!!) there were so many funny incidents , it was I think in the last week of the driving lessons that I realized that the backrest of the seat could be actually moved behind!! That guy’s face was a picture to behold!

I have no idea whether all these will be useful to me ,because by the time I get a car ( and if I do!) I am sure I would never remember any of the things I learnt . Still what I learned is how the roads look from the drivers seat!!!. The guy is really funny ….he is aghast at the idea of me going all alone to big bad USA and that too “padhne ke liye?!!” ( this is said with a look that suggests ……may be this female has really driven round the bend!!). But he is an amusing creature and has promised me a list of “useful” contacts in Amrika. Keeps on telling me “main tumhe Dipti ka address deta hoon ……uske maa-baap udhar hai, chahiye to zaroor milna : Dipti being Dipti Naval!!…..ya Shabana (Azmi) ke somebody bhi hai!!

The driving test was equally funny : a fitting finale to the earlier  training days. This inspector comes with a booming voice and says” Hi! Deepa ,How are you today ? What is your name?” And me I respond with a look that says could you be more idiotic ….” Deepa” And then he asks me to start and then was the best part the contraption failed to start!! He was really nice and said :you are tense , why don’t you try later!” Then the other guy came and it didn’t start either!!! So this inspector pulled the gears and stomped the accelerator and then it finally came to life! After that I sat again and then it was nothing ..Aage lo peeche lo stuff!!

So that means I have been let loose on the streets of Bombay with a driving license to my name! The only thing I am quite sure is that the next time I cross a road or try some pedestrian stunts I’ll. surely think twice ..Who knows the other drivers may be people like me!!!

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