This one year with the car has been a series of discoveries.
One of the reasons for buying the car was learning how to drive, which I had tried many, many years ago with a cousin’s second hand Premier Padmini and had not been able to get the clutch and brake coordination correct resulting in the car starting and then stopping without moving an inch.
I was booed at. Frustrated, I left trying. After that unsuccessful attempt, I never tried my hand at driving again until I joined a training school last year.
The first thing I learnt was - driving is not easy. It is an applied art - where how good you are at it is determined not by how well you know the theories but how deftly you apply them when behind the wheels. You are told a few things at the school and many more you discover on your own.
It requires a mix of many skills. You have to take quick decisions, you have to have quick impulses to react to situations, you need what I would call space-ial intelligence, and as you are doing all this, you have to remain calm and relaxed.
That I am able to successfully drive came to my mother as a surprise. A year ago, when I started learning, I would be surprised to know that a year later I would be able to drive. My personality traits run contrary to the prerequisites of driving.
I am slow to react to situations. I am a slow thinker. I am confusion-prone. And generally I place a chair or table right the second or third time.
It took me two months of training (10 hours) and six months of practice to overcome my natural deficiencies. Probably it would be a little longer had it not been for the fact that I had a Maruti 800 to learn with.
These six to eight months were not without pain. Once, while trying to complete a 60 degree turn, I hit the bumper of an SUV and had to pay heavily to get it repaired. The driver of the SUV informed me, while we were returning from the service center, that there was a new driver who had hit the car bumper against a pole while backing it. “Sale ko chalana nehi ata.” I would be thankful to him if he had not told me.
The other mishaps were minor but enough to dent my confidence for a while. Along the way, I also learnt a few life lessons.
One of my friends, who learnt driving about four years ago, told me the guy who shouts first in an accident and shouts the other guy out generally gets mob support and prevails: “Yaar, a second later no one knows whose the fault was.”
Seeing me appreciating his point, he shared a deeper human insight: Following a crisis, we pretend to look for the actual culprit, but actually we look for a fall guy - enough to quell our anger!
I learnt another thing: driving doesn’t get the credit it deserves because it’s a poor man’s job.