Throughout my existence, I have mastered many trades. I became fully potty-trained at age of 2(parents argue that I was 6, but I doubt that they remember it correctly), I championed the art of sabotaging one’s own future by opting for medical stream at 16, then went on to (dare to) get married at 28. Yet, there was one necessity-of-urban-life art that was elusive for me: developing a taste for wine while using 800 English language adjectives to say in place of “YUCK”. That, and the art of knowing how to drive a car.
It is not a popular blogging idea to talk about your failures in life, but what prompted me to share my story was a recent report that Milind Soman, the unofficial mascot of the ‘Association of wives pestering their husbands to reduce that beer-belly’ had recently learnt how to drive a car. AT 54 YEARS OF AGE. The headline for this article was probably on the lines of ‘Milind Soman learns how to drive at 54 and we can’t stop saying #LearningGoals‘ while for me, because of not knowing how to drive at 28, the general family opinion would read ‘Ankit Sharma is still a Dhartee pe Bojh’.
Agreed, he is Milind Soman. Even at 54, he could run from Mumbai to Lonawala while carrying his girlfriend(with her two large suitcases of luggage) on his back and call it a weekend getaway. At 28, my fitness levels had dropped down to cancelling the plan instead of opening the Ola app if an Uber was not available. It took a while to understand that with his face and physique, Milind Soman could even get away with voting for Congress in Delhi elections.
In general, I was late with my means of conveyance milestones. At the age of 12, when other boys of my age were learning how to ride a scooter so that they could take that cute girl from the tuition classes to the bakery two block away, I was learning how to balance myself on a bicycle. At 21, while my peers watched and tried to emulate Formula One and NasCar, I learnt how to ride a motorcycle, conditions applied*. (*Must have a pillion rider who also knew how to ride a bike, and riding at a speed which would mean the fifth gear was redundant)
Let me be clear. It wasn’t for the lack of intent or effort. I have taken driving lessons four times in my life, and by the last session of each of those, I was confident that I could transport myself from point A to point B in the city at an average of 18km per hour and 3 abusive words per turn and overtake. Then, due to lack of practice and willpower, I slowly forgot most of the teachings, except two:
1. Always use indicator to switch lane/make a turn.
2. Stay 20 feet away from a car with a ‘Gujjar Boy’ sticker.
My family always tried to motivate me to learn driving through the age-old method popular in closely-knit loving families: verbal ridicule. I finally managed to find a teacher who could teach me on a car without a second set of foot control, and after 10 days, I felt ready to get out on the city roads and have the moral entitlement to make jokes about female drivers. Then I got a car and safely parked it at a nearby parking for 3 months because of the personality trait commonly known as ‘zabardast phattu hona’.
I finally took my car out independently (with the missus sitting next to me who, if needed, could get the car out of trouble) after two months of getting married. This is also a moment to appreciate the wife who had patiently waited for this moment, for about 9 years as a girlfriend and then 2 more months after the wedding. She learnt driving way before I did, and then supported my initial period of practice by opening window and shouting cuss words at other drivers so that I could concentrate solely on the road.
12 months and about 18000 scratches on the car later, I can proudly say that I know how to drive now. I live and hence drive mostly inside the city area of Delhi, so it means that my chances of becoming a patient of chronic hypertension are now higher. It is still a better prospect than getting into a typical Delhi road-rage, simply because you did not stay away from the ‘Gujjar Boy’ car. As they say about driving in Delhi and teenage pregnancies, saavdhani hati…