I have always been an extremely reluctant driver. Call it my well accepted laziness or poorly disguised clumsiness; driving is something that always gives me jitters. So after four years of consistent persuasion, frequent reminders and fatal threats by my better half, I was forced to buy a car. I had learnt driving few months back but it was on traffic-less roads of Bhopal which were as wide as a highway. I had never driven in a traffic created by people willing to risk their lives so that they can reach their destination faster by a few minutes.
“Firsts” in life always excite you. People cherish the memories of their first love even on their deathbed. First kiss may send you in the state of coma for weeks. First job is always followed by numerous credit cards and hefty bills even before the first salary arrives. On the evening I got the delivery of my first bike, I felt like taking rounds of the city for the rest of the night. Just that it turned out to be impossible because the bike-dealer who delivered it to my office hadn’t left enough petrol in it. The moment I put the bike in 4th gear, I found out that fuel tank was as dry as a desert. Hence I had to pull it along for almost a kilometer to reach the nearest petrol-pump. After pulling 125kg for a kilometer, my fragile body sent a strong signal to my demented mind “Don’t know about you but I am going to sleep”.
Hence when I took the delivery of my first car yesterday evening, first thing I asked the dealer was “How much fuel does it have?”
“Don’t worry Sir. It has enough to drive you out of the city. But I would still suggest, first thing you must do as soon as you drive out of our showroom is to visit a petrol-pump” he said while explaining the policies, receipts, functions of the car and all that.
But my mind was somewhere else. My eyes were glued to the road outside. With each passing second, my heart was sinking.
“How the hell I am going to drive in this mad traffic?” was what I was thinking while looking at the jam packed road outside. To make the matters worse, Government decided to make my life tougher by removing all the street lights from the road. If government jumped into it, how almighty could be left behind. He decided to shower the area with thunderous rains.
“Sir, there is no hurry. You can take the delivery tomorrow also and drive it. You are a rookie. It’s better to be safe than sorry”
“See, sooner or later I will have to drive through this madness. Why later? Why not sooner” I was beaming with the shallowest confidence ever owned by any man who walked on this planet.
After some rituals, handshakes, poses, congratulations and formalities, I drove out of the showroom.
It was dark. It was raining. But thankfully, my side of the road was vacant. But to my right, it was total chaos.
I went to meet a friend – his office was nearby mine.
“Dude, you look scared. What is the matter?” he looked worried for me.
“Nothing man. Just a bit tired after a long and busy day” I said.
“You were busy? Ha Ha. Chances of water being found on sun are more than you being busy. Don’t take a chance. I will give you three options” he said with a big smile.
“What are they?”
“I will drop you home in your car and come back by a rickshaw. You can park your car in the office and go home by company bus. Or you can stay with me tonight and go home tomorrow morning”
“NO. Thanks for your concerns but FYI, I know how to drive.” I said in a strong voice.
“Ego has been the sole reason for some of the biggest wars in this planet. Anyways, all the best and give me a call in case you get stuck somewhere”
“Thanks. Bye” I put the car in the gear and started driving. But deep down the heart, I knew that I had never ever been so nervous in my life – more than I have ever been before any exams, more than I was on the night of 2nd April, more than I was when my marriage got fixed and definitely more than when I jumped from the roof of BSE building without any safety measures. Okay, I cooked that last one up. But to summarize, I was really nervous and thinking - If anything goes wrong, I TOLD YOU SO would be the only sentence that I would be hearing for the rest of the week.
But I made it without any hiccups and called up that friend “Dude, India comes home in a Maruti”
“Thank God. I was worried”
“I was confident. I don’t think I am going to face more difficult conditions than tonight. I CAN drive” I said.
While there was a strong urge to go on a long drive during the night, three things stopped me – mom’s strict orders against it, rain and I knew that how difficult it was for me to drive. Got out of jail was what I thinking.
Next morning, strategy was to start before roads become too crowded. But as soon as I was about to get out of the house, my three year old woke up and demanded “Papa ruko. Pehle mujhe school chhod do, fir office jana” (Papa, STOP. First drop me to the school then go to office)
I can wait and drop you to your school son but who will drop me to my office then? I thought.
Starting late meant I had no way of avoiding traffic.
Apply Handbrakes, push the clutch, leave hand brakes and accelerate.
Apply Handbrakes, push the clutch, leave hand brakes and accelerate.
I was repeating in my mind.
Accelerate, apply handbrakes, clutch. Leave hand brakes, apply brakes, push the clutch, and try to accelerate. Apply clutch, accelerate, and apply brakes. Apply handbrakes, wait and wonder why the car isn’t moving forward.
This is what I was doing.
Being target of hundreds of stares, thousands of laughs and millions of abuses, I managed to jam the traffic at least at ten places.
A traffic police man came to me and shouted “Why aren’t you moving the car?”
“Can’t you see that I am trying? What more I can do – get down and push it?” I shouted back.
Finally I managed to reach my destination – without a single hit, without a single dent. I had done it – two difficult drives within a span of 12 hours.
I CAN drive. I thought.
All I needed to do was to enter the gate, take a right turn and park it in loads of empty spaces. A victorious smile was shamelessly visible on my face. I was grinning.
“Yahan ke hum sikandar, chhahen to rakh len sabkoapni jab eke andar”, the JJWS song was being played at FM.
Biggest danger for a ship to sink is in shallow water is what my dad had told me. In youth, there is a tendency to ignore what your parents say. I was young. I ignored him.
“God damn it” I almost banged my head on the car after seeing that I had hit the gate. The left bottom of the car was proof of it. My ship had sunk.
First dent on the car is as painful as the first heart break – I had heart it many a times. This was the first time I understood it.
With little choice, I decided to drive it to the service station to get the damage repaired. Less than 18 hours ago, I was taking the delivery of my car.
“Pehle pyar ka pehla gam, pehli baar hain aankhennam. Pehla hai tanhai ka yeh mausam”, the Papa Kahte Hain song was being played on FM now. I wish I had paid attention to what my papa said to me.