Thursday, December 2, 2010

Learning to drive on the roads, finally

Finally, I have started taking car driving lessons! Yes, it is little late I know, but then isn't it better late than never. 

It is  a contrast that after spending many years in Europe; Mecca for driving on roads;  I found the necessity to learn driving a car after returning back to India, where roads are well not at least bed of roses. I agree with you,  it is not that I did not want to, but somehow it never happened. Money might be one major factor and then procrastination will be the other. No more explanations for that. Life is not to explain but to do and share those deeds with others right!

Here I share the fun and the fear I am experiencing while taming those four wheels for the first time in my life. I must say it is a life time experience to sit behind the steering wheels and all those girls out there who are in your early twenties and busy buying tunikas/kurties, typing codes on your computer screens and searching boy friends when time permits, go and get this license of four wheels in your pocket. If you don't do it now, I am telling you, you will regret it.

First little bit about the car. The car is a Maruti 800 (Symbol of uplift of Indian middle class in nineties although now Nano from Tata is squeezing fast into the picture) with lots of L written all around it using red tapes (another use of red tapes in India!). Fortunately for me the trainer is a very experienced, calm and jolly person, knows about all kinds of phobia a middle aged woman can have while starting to learn driving on Indian roads.

First few days went for warming me up with the technical terms, parts of the car and letting me drive in the comparatively empty roads before taking me to the high and mixed traffic roads. I spent some time fumbling between clutch, break and accelerator, after all, my feet are used to be rested on the top of the CPU or stand and walk, they are quite surprised to do this continuous action of pressing and releasing the "three musketeers" to keep the car moving. Another act I was doing while changing the gears as the trainer said that it is like I am knocking at several doors but I  should actually open the right door. Well then in few days we both felt that I was doing fine on empty roads, although I have no idea how much control he was having on my driving with trainers side of the clutch and break. Anyway I was happy thinking that I am driving fine at least when the road is empty! 

Now considering me as a newbie behind the steering wheel, don't think I don't have any culture of road driving or road rules. Actually my brain is jammed with too many of them. Also I have a dream of becoming those politely smiling drivers in Europe who always allowed me to walk cross the road and waved me with a smile after that. 

So my foot automatically pressed the breaks before a zebra crossing (where normally many pedestrians were waiting to cross) but I got honked by others behind me. Seeing my road manners for few times, my trainer said, here it is not possible to stop in front of all the zebra crossing and allowing tens of people to cross, also the other cars will not stop so there will be a confusion, so I need to make eye contact with the pedestrians and if they are fast then allow them to cross just the periphery of my car and then I need to keep moving. So there is no chance of stopping, smiling and then waving to the passer by as I had always intended. 

I went little pale I think on listening to this, the trainer noticed that immediately, and he consoled me, "I hope Indian road will be a place to follow all the rules in near or far future, but for now we have to go as safely and gently as possible but with the crowd." "Humm", I said and did not stop in front of the other zebra crossing. I am tuning fine, I guess.

Next, I absolutely don't have any idea of looking at my back without turning my head. I have never used so many views in my life, rear, front, side. My eye balls are used to focus on a 13-15 inch area of a computer and here I have to deal with several meters in all directions and that too in near and far. Frankly speaking, till now I am concentrating at the front, occasionally looking at the left and right when some motorcycle or car is trying to enter from side lanes but still not getting any feeling about the  traffic behind me. My over conscious reflexes pulls me immediately away from the lane when I listen a honk from my back at right. Yes, I might hit another one on left like that. Not good at all. I lack the motivation to stay upright no matter what happens like the soldiers on Indian borders. Also very generously I provide lots of space to the traffic coming from opposite direction, who in spite of seeing the double solid lines on the road try to overtake their predecessors. The trainer is trying his best to reduce my anxiety and generosity. After all I need to take care of my preference on the road and in life otherwise others will capture any space left.
These are first few points I thought I must share with you about my experiences of learning to drive in India. There will be lots more. Keep reading.

I don't know if there will be any day I will be able to go out alone in a car, drive half of the city and come back home safely. But for now those one hour of learning to drive in the morning for me is like a meta state, where I feel like playing a simulation game only that this game is  three dimensional and real with no repeat buttons at all.


  1. Hey chandrima
    I found your blog through IHM and am wondering if you lived in Portblair in the 90's

  2. hi travel bug..I saw your another comment also, can you please tell me little more about you?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. hey chandu,
    i can very well feel the anxiety and the pressure that you undergo, luckily for me i learnt driving while dad was still in Air Force. But driving in US has been an entirely different experience altogether and the major change i encountered was the absence of the clutch here which is one less problem to deal with, love the accelerator and the brakes.................hope you will soon learn the ways and means of driving on the roads of the Motherland...........have fun.....:)