I’ve been riding a scooter since I was 14. But this post is about my experience in driving— or lack thereof— a car.
Growing up, I looked at women drivers in awe. Not in a condescending “Oh look, they’re made fun of globally for being bad drivers, yet here they are driving around like they’ve been born with it.” way, but in a very wistful manner that is reserved for things you can only dream of.
Sorry gentlemen, I don’t feel the same way about you driving. Maybe it is something to do with some reckless men on the road?
I enrolled in a driving class in the summer of 2008. My instructor was 60 year old gentleman who retired as a lorry driver. My cousin and I took these classes together, and often after the classes, we would wander off to the movies, forgetting all about the lessons for the day. It was like one of those not-so-serious hobbies that are meant to be forgotten soon after the summer vacations.
The second time I enrolled for driving classes was in 2014, just before my wedding. I never got around to applying for a driver’s license. I moved to Canada, and found the joys of driving an automatic car. Even bigger was the joy of driving on almost empty roads with no one honking. I was driving around with my Indian 2 wheeler license. Don’t ask—I’m not proud of it, but we all have some illegal skeletons in our closet. Since I didn’t have a license, I drove less frequently.
We then moved back home, to India.
Three’s a charm
For the longest time after moving to India, I didn’t find the need to drive. Then the pining hit me again, and off I went to register with a new driving school. I was driving fairly well, took the test and passed it.
I drove short distances with my husband around, and it seemed easy enough. I was still very very scared of left side intruders, speeding, honking etc. I will explain the reason for this unfathomable anxiety in a bit.
One fine Saturday, armed with Youtube videos of “how to reverse a car without killing anyone”, I decided to take the car out without my husband’s assistance. I was so feverish with enthusiasm that I banged the car into the gate. It was so bad, the front portion (still learning the anatomy of a car, forgive me) of the car was stuck to the gate and would only come out with the combined effort of three strong people.
I was riddled with more self-doubt. Was I ever going to drive a car at all? Maybe I was not cut out for it.
Flashback— Why The Fear
We met with an accident in January 2017. What made it worse was the fact that my then 11 month old son was also in the car with us. Three men who were piss drunk in broad daylight and riding on a single bike hit our car (which I wasn’t driving, by the way) in the wrong direction.
Thankfully, we were alright but it was bad for the biker dudes— three of them flew in three different directions and were bleeding profusely.
We spent more than half of the car’s buying price to get it repaired, so can you even imagine the extent of the damage? People who saw the accident spot or photos of the damaged car told me that it was a miracle that we were unhurt.
It’s been 2.5 years, but I still shudder and jolt at sharp turns or when someone tries to speed past my car. I understood that this is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that this is a baggage I’m going to be carrying around for a long time. On some days when I’m overcome with emotion, I remind myself that I still haven’t given up driving, or the will to drive, and then I feel so damn proud of myself.
Driving it home
Soon as I acknowledged the fact that the accident was deathly serious matter, and that it was okay for me to feel scared, driving started to feel a little relaxing. Before this realisation, driving was extremely stressful and almost always ended with me cursing or eating shitloads of junk food to deal with the trauma.
Last Sunday, I decided to take matters (or the steering wheel) in my own hands and drove unassisted for a short distance on a busy road. This drive was such a confidence booster, and I take so much pride in it!
I owe it to my husband (or husbae, like kids these days talk) for the constant reassurance that there are far more terrible drivers on the road than myself. The man doesn’t coddle, it’s only tough love.
Since then I’ve drawing up an image of myself driving around the city, swaying to the music, sipping coffee—stone deaf to the horns blaring around me. There’s no stopping me!