I learnt driving as early as 1993-94, but took my license nine years later, in 2005. I learnt in the car at home with my brother’s and husband’s help. Then I had my son and left driving. Much later, when a child in the family fell sick and I had to depend on a driver, is when I realised driving is a necessity. I joined Sukanya Driving School in Koyilandy and cleared my license test for two and four wheeler in the first go. People at the school told me I am skilled and should not waste it. Later, they gave me instructor’s training and I worked with them for six months as an instructor.
I had applied for another job at Indus Motors Maruti Driving School at Nallalam. They saw my biodata and put me in the driving section. I went for a 10-day training to The Institute of Driving and Traffic Research in Delhi.
I have been here for five years now and 75 per cent of our customers are women. A recent trend is the increase in senior citizens, especially women, opting to drive. Aged between 60 and 70, the old couple would be here and their children outside. Most of them opt to drive when they realise they are dependent on a driver for everything. My oldest customer so far has been a 72-year-old lady. I would say her body might be 72, but her mind is 22. She took a little over a month to learn. Since the reflexes of the aged are not as sharp, they take a little longer to respond. So you have to give them instructions trifle early.
Over the years, a lot of women from conservative families too have taken up driving. Husbands would be abroad and they would be running the house, looking after aged parents and taking care of children’s school. There would be luxury cars at home, yet they would be depended on drivers. At times, keeping a driver is not encouraged. Driving becomes a necessity for such women.
Youngsters learn quickly, mostly because they are not too bothered about consequences. But middle-aged women think over-time about consequences and get jittery behind the wheel. Even before they take the car out, they would have thought what to do at the sharp turn ahead. So it is important to motivate them and teach them to be positive, while driving and in life. If you scold them they will lose confidence and their interest in driving will evaporate. Instead, I tell them about their mistakes casually while constantly motivating them. Even if a small accident happens, I make the women drive. If you take over, they will stop driving altogether. By the way, accidents are far less when women drive for they are cautious. Here, the first 7-8 hours are set aside for theory followed by another five classes on the simulator and only then are learners allowed to take the car onto the road.
If there are early classes I reach Nallalam from Koyilandy by 8 a.m. So I start early, by 6.30 a.m. Usually my day goes on till 5.30 – 6 p.m. On an average, 15 women and 10 men come to learn every month. I have also got my taxi permit now and driving has been a life-changing experience, Whenever you go out, you will meet students, young and old, who are happy to see you. To see my customers drive around confidently is my biggest joy.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)