Saturday, October 16, 2010

Learning to drive (in Mumbai) - 1

15 agonizing years. Near and dear ones wondering what's wrong with me. And with all good intentions goading me on. My own internal frustrations building up. But lots of fear to deal with.
What am i talking about? Don't laugh but i'm talking  about learning to drive!

I can't tell you how scared i was about driving. Basically i just couldn't get some things. For example:
1) How do you manage 3 pedals with 2 legs?

2) How do you manage steering and gears with just a pair of hands? 

3) How do you judge stuff on the left hand side when you are on the right? 

4) How do you tell the guy driving behind you not to honk the heart out of your chest?

5) How do you take a u-turn that requires a reverse at the end when no ones willing to even stop for you?

6) How do you tell the guy trying to nudge his way in ('illegally') that you are freakin' late for a meeting so can he please get the hell out of the way?

7) How do you temporarily halt the car in the middle of traffic, gently come out of the car and smack the auto guy on his head for dramatically stopping for a customer without showing any indication?

8) How do you drive on a one-way street with traffic from both directions? 

And then there were the moral dilemmas:
1) To go or not to go
Red Signal. You're first in line. No one's coming from any other side. 20 cars behind you honking for you to move. Do you move? If you don't you get cursed. If you do, the cop lurking behind the pan-bidi stall springs at you.

2) Traffic Cops - The Black Swan experts
Do you halt at a signal at 7:00 am when there's no one. Does the traffic department really expect you to do that or are they just playing safe; in case there's some problem, they'll just say: "Well, we put in a signal there, see. We've done our job". 

3) Learners/Driving School guys
I mean, should they really be plying in the MIDDLE of the road when it IS apparent that they cannot distinguish between an accelerator and the clutch? Should you keep honking at them to move or should you keep in mind that you were at that stage too?

Some other anxieties were that it was too late for me to learn or that I would be exactly the guy to make that horrific mistake on some Bhagat road leading to a car pile-up.

So what made me go for it? The main motivator was Independence.

I was tired if being at the mercy of chauffeurs. I wanted to be independent. If a driver quit (and oh boy, quit they do) you're at the mercy of cabbies or auto fellows. Bus+Train works well but monsoons and heat (which between them is basically the entire year) is a problem especially if you are going in for meetings. Especially meetings in offices which are not walking distance from a station or far enough for a cab to go there. i used to depend on radio cabs : Meru, Mega etc. but these are just not dependable from the availability point-of-view.

Moreover, what if there was an emergency at home? I would need to knock on a neighbours door or again, call for a cab which may not happen. 

Lastly, there have been several opportunities i've missed by not knowing how to drive. Like going on road trips in Spring or Fall in Michigan.

So finally, i took the plunge and joined a D-school.

Yes, the D is almost like Dawood (and not Driving) because that's how i think they operate. Gang-like. Goon-like.

Next Post: My experiences learning with a D-School