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The steep learning curve

Driving lessons alone cannot take you very far on the road; you will only drive people nuts

I don’t believe people easily nowadays. My recent experiences have made me a sceptic. I took my friend’s advice when she said the solution to all my problems was to learn driving. My life was one of complete dependence: on my husband, the autorickshaw driver and the weather. She said I could break free if I learnt to drive. I believed her when she said it was a simple thing; it would take just a couple of days before I could zoom around on my own. I believed her.

I also believed the driving instructor when he said driving was only a matter of spending 3000 rupees and 15 half-hour sessions at his school.

Well, I don’t believe them or anyone else anymore. After 150 half-hour sessions and much more than 3000 rupees down the road, I still am not ‘fit’ to drive. Of course I drive; I drive people nuts as I negotiate the bends and curves and potholes on the road.

The other day I had to go out to get some medicines. I mustered enough courage to back the car out of the garage (without hitting any person, place or thing) and drove out. So far, so good. But as I took a ‘U’ turn the car just jerked to a stop, casing a minor traffic jam, a major cacophony of blaring horns and screeching brakes. I think (and I am not sure about this) I did not press the clutch sufficiently as I slowed down for the turn.

Today I ventured out a second time on my own. I realised as I parked in the marketplace that I had travelled a good 10 km with the handbrake on. It sent shivers down my spine. What effect it had on the engine of my car will be known pretty soon.

I have stuck an “L” sign wherever I can on my car, leaving just enough space to view the traffic in the rearview mirror. I just have a queer feeling that whenever I go on the road the rest of the traffic seems to disperse. I seem to evoke strong feelings of fear, rage, wariness and frustration among all my fellow-drivers on the road.

When I enrolled in driving school, they never told me that the dual-control training cars are very different from real-life cars. When you sit in the training car you feel you are in control. You cruise through the traffic without a hitch and feel like a Lewis Hamilton at the end of it all.

The real controller

It was only when I sat in my own car that I discovered that the car controls you. You have to press the clutch with the right amount of force, otherwise the gear turns an obstinate mule and refuses to come to position. You realise that the accelerator is hand-in-glove with the clutch and betrays you at the right moment. It also demands that you handle it with care. There is, of course, the automatic version for fools like me. But it is a fuel-guzzler and it will take some convincing to get my husband to buy one of those modern wonders for me. I have to first prove I am worthy of it.

My biggest grouse against driving: nobody tells you that road sense is a rare commodity and deserts all — the good, bad and learner — drivers at peak traffic time. It deserted me when I stepped on the brake on seeing a truck quite a distance away and caused the motorcyclist at the back to fall and break a leg. I was advised to learn the difference between the accelerator and brake pedal before I ventured out again. Thankfully, this incident happened in a gentle neighborhood. Had it been in the glorious capital of our nation, I would have been a victim of (justified) road rage!

I shall overcome some day and drive: this I know deep down in my heart.

It is the effect of this solemn resolve on the general public that I am unaware of. My experience suggests it may not bode well for the public in general. Why drive myself nuts worrying about them?

skm2201@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 8:27:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-steep-learning-curve/article14508046.ece

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