My first driving lesson was at the age of 17. With a couple of months to go for the start of college, my dad thought it was a nice (a feeling that was short lived) idea to let me behind the wheels. My first driving instructor was a rough old chap (a friend of my grandfather and driving guru of my father) and he made me “take the H” on the very first day. Thanks to the parallel set of brakes he had, I passed it with flying colours and came back very confident. A few lessons later, I started driving the family car on quiet roads. All was well till I went and rammed the car onto the compound wall at my uncle’s place. The car suffered minor scratches but my confidence went on a long vacation. Then came college and since I was too lazy to practice my driving when I was home for holidays, chapter 1 of my driving came to a rather abrupt and uneventful ending.
9 years later, chapter 2 took place in Chennai. This time I had to go for classes at 6am and the rains never helped (rains in Chennai in August? – nature was definitely not on my side). Rain was the perfect excuse to miss my classes – or rather the so called classes where 4 of us were bundled into a rickety old car and each of us was allowed to drive for 20 minutes and watch the other 3 drive for the rest of the time. But I got my license to show for it;-P
After moving to Sydney and starting my job, driving became a necessity. I have to travel to a site that lies on a highway, 20km from the nearest town. I have to either take a cab or get a lift , both of which are extremely irritating prospects – cab because of the money involved(I feel guilty even if it is the company’s money) and lifts because of the daily ritual of asking “can you drop me on your way back if it is not a problem for you ? And it would be great if you can pick me up tomorrow morning as well”. And so began chapter 3.
Back in India, I found driving to be somewhat like playing a complicated videogame - like getting things thrown at you from random directions at random intervals? And although I can sit for hours playing videogames, driving didn’t hold the same thrill for me. In my family, driving is considered to be “a skill that can only be mastered by a few” and guess that kind of put a lot of pressure on me and took the enjoyment out of it. But here, everyone drives and it is a part of life and is taken for granted and it changed the way I looked at it. The fact that there are rules and that everyone (ok, almost everyone) follows them helps. And oh, yes, automatic transmission – that just makes life easier ;-)
And for the first time ever, I really enjoy driving – that’s all the 15 hours of driving with an instructor on the side and around 300km ,with an equally instructive husband on the side ,along deserted country roads where most of the time we were the only ones in sight(but to my credit I managed to create a long procession of cars behind me because I couldn't bring myself to go beyond 90kmph though the speed limit was 100kmph .I am sure that when they finally got a lane to overtake and saw me behind the wheels,they went "A woman? That too an Asian? God help us" So much for stereotyping ) but yes ,I am getting there. As my instructor tells me , I just need some more guts :-D
Technically I am on a temporary visa for some time and I can drive with my Indian license – yes, when my husband told me that for the first time I asked him “are you insane?” and refused to believe him but true it is. So looks like this chapter could go on happily for a while. And I absolutely love the opening lines of this one - a day of driving around in the Upper Hunter Wine growing area in NSW dotted with olive farms ,vineyards ,horse studs and farms and picturesque views on either sides.