If you are up at 5am it’s probably for one of the following reasons: baba Ramdev has gotten into your head; you still have six chapters to cover before the 8am exam; you have signed up for driving lessons; or, you didn’t sleep at all. At one point, it was the driving lessons that made me despise dawn.
But here’s the thing – I don’t drive. So, why did I enrol at Elegant driving school? To up my cool quotient, obviously. But the universe has ways to remind one ‘once a paati*, forever a paati.’ At the risk being labelled a flake, I thought it would be amusing to talk about a few things I learnt outside of that manual provided by the centre.
For example, the government can just man up and admit the yellow traffic light is just a scheme to earn revenue from tickets for jumping a signal. It barely flickers for a few seconds, just enough time for a vehicle to cross halfway down the signal pole, and bam! the yellow turns red, thanks to the P.C. Sorkar in that little booth at the corner who can perform two acts of illusion – first the obvious one, confusing his spectators between two visible wavelengths – 570 nm, and 650 nm; second, a disappearing act which makes them unavailable at their designated spot anytime you need their help.
(Abracadabra! No sign of the policeman)
The government might be in splendid terms with the private hospital industry, but it probably isn’t that pally with the car insurance guys. The pot holed roads while making you wonder if you were driving on a game board for marble solitaire (that game where you jump one marble over another until only one is left in the field. I call it chess for those who like a challenge, but not too much at a time) will give you a back ache and f up the shock absorbers of your car.
(This pot hole is so perfectly round it can literally fit into a a marble solitaire board)
Driving, I learnt, is an exercise that requires the simultaneous engagement of legs, feet, arms, hands, eyes, and tongue. The functions of the eyes and limbs is obvious. If you have been in the company of men while they drive, the function of the tongue must also be obvious. With every sudden brake, nick-of-time swerve, blaring of the horn, one is exposed to the permutation-combination of co-relation between various family members of the person being yelled at. Since I wasn’t raised in Delhi, it’s okay to say I wouldn’t be too excited to emulate my male counterparts in this regard. If the situation escalates, the man behind the wheel often stomps out for a one-on-one with the (male) driver of the errant car. A brief moment of entertainment for bystanders who have now formed a crowd around the showdown. If it were a woman involved in a scuffle with a man surrounded by other men, in India one can imagine the ensuing violence to be of an all different kind.
Another thing I didn’t fail to observe is that the best cars are made in one of the European countries, or Japan – a country still getting accustomed to women drivers. Point is, most of the models are designed for people with an average height of 5’ 7”. I am not 5’ 7”. Not even 5’ 1”. I am 5 foot tall. So, if I sit on a cushion to get a view of the road ahead of me, I would require an AC blower fixed slightly lower than the height at which it comes in standard issue cars. Also, when my torso is elevated, my legs fail to pick up cue and elongate, leaving me with a full lower body stretch to reach the pedals. With that kind of warm up, wouldn’t I rather just run to my destination, that too without pulling a muscle?
Now I know that there are plenty of people who sail against all the currents I pointed out, and own the roads like Vin Diesel in Fast and the Furious, the problem is that some of us just can’t keep up with the very fast and the very furious zooming around (when not stuck in traffic) in the city. For us, the will, and the way to get there is of a different kind – we either raise our voice for the government to better the public transportation system so people don’t have to always rely on private cars, or, get a job that pays good enough to afford the forever surge-charging Ubers and Olas.
In any case, having evolved into a species that requires commuting over significant distances to survive, and that too within a limited time, has taken a toll on all of us. Sitting behind the steering wheel just aggravates the frustration.
*paati is a term used to describe anyone or anything purely average.
-by Zaiceka Ahmed (follow me here)