With the year-end just around the corner, I thought it would be only wise to finish this story that I started in 2017.
Now that you have a grasp on what had been my driving force to learn to drive, you’re in a good position to understand why I chose to do what I eventually did.
Like I mentioned here, that because of a twist of circumstances, I got an opportunity to migrate abroad, this proved to be gamechanger in my equation with driving. In my early years, while I was a student at the university in one of the busiest cities of the world, driving wasn’t on my mind.
Soon after, when I got married to a man working overseas, things changed completely. My ex-husband had witnessed my apprehensions about car driving during our courtship days. Though he chose not to comment, he had made up his mind for something, I learnt only after our marriage.
Since I had an Indian driving licence, I could drive overseas (for a limited time) till I passed the tests for an overseas driving licence. Stating this obvious fact, my ex-husband made it clear to me on day one that he expected me to start driving right away. He was well-aware of my apprehensions but chose to encourage me saying that he had my back covered and was ready to devote hours after-work to help me get used to driving in the new country.
As dramatic it may sound, I picked up driving in a matter of a couple of days but the gearbox continued to haunt me with the traumatic experiences I’ve had in India. This was when my ex-husband made me understand why driving independently was so important for me, especially in a new country where we had no family except each other.
To help me further, we decided to invest in a new car. A car with an automatic gear shift. There was no looking back. What initially started with daily drives (during the day, while I was still looking for a job) to the local library and for grocery shopping, became a regular practice as I was always the designated driver being the only teetotaler in our growing group of friends.
“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was loving this new-found freedom. I was growing in the love and trust my ex-husband had shown in me. I felt like I was healing in the hours I was behind the wheel undoing the hurt that had kept me from driving all these years. This was why I cleared the driving test quite easily and there was no looking back from then on.
Time flew past with life getting busier and me juggling responsibilities at work and home. One day, my parents hinted at their desire to come visit us.
In the deepest corners of my heart, I secretly wished that my father feel proud seeing me drive confidently in an altogether new country. The day finally came when I was driving my parents home, with my father in the passenger seat.
I was driving the car at 120kmph (on a highway) and was acutely conscious of the fact that my father was neither flinching nor was concerned (at least in an obvious way) about
my our safety like he used to be in India.
In the days that followed, while my parents stayed with us, I drove them around regularly but not even once (not even on my mother’s prompting) did my father choose to comment on my driving.
Over time, with the turn of events, I was back in India, in my parents’ home, a new mother and going through a difficult divorce. Even in those trying times, I couldn’t help but be mindful of the fact that I needed to keep driving to stay independent.
When my daughter was hardly 2 months old and I was slowly beginning to feel myself after being bedridden for almost a year, I embarked on regular car driving.
I spared an hour in the evenings when Pari was usually asleep or was in her best mood, to keep things simple for my mother. My father and I would go for a drive in our family car. My father didn’t take long to return to his ‘tiger parenting’ days, correcting, reprimanding and at times even resorting to shouting at my slightest mistake.
This time around, though I had the experience of driving for years at stretch, it was not in the chaotic Indian traffic. Besides, my driving experience was considered no good as I used to drive an automatic car during my stay overseas.
I can confidently say, that this time around, I picked up driving rather smoothly in less than a week. However, my father’s opinion was rather contrary.
Today, half a decade later, when I look back, I can safely say that my father was yet not ready to let me be on my own in India. At that time, I was given confusing excuses that I needed to focus on my baby so I shouldn’t consider driving (as lame as it might sound). My depressed, not-so-healthy being, struggling with the trials of a messy divorce couldn’t stand up against my father’s will.
Two years elapsed and then came the time when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Among other things, the realization that I had to take up the responsibility of my elderly parents while also catering to the needs of my child was one that has never left me since.
“I wonder if fears ever really go away, or if they just lose their power over us.”
― Veronica Roth
This time, I was adamant, I wanted to drive regularly, irrespective of what my father thought about my driving. I wanted to be confident enough to be able to drive to any destination on my own, at any hour of the day, without having to look up to anyone for help.
That’s when, after a break of almost three years (as I was too occupied taking care of my mother in the year that followed her diagnosis) I resumed driving. My father would sit in the passenger seat and in the matter of a week, I was ready to be driving, rather decently in the city.
On one of these days, on our way back home, when I took a turn into the lane that led to our home, a speeding bike appeared out of nowhere and zipped past hardly an inch away from my car’s bonnet. Though I had applied the brakes on time and by God’s grace nothing untoward happened, my father chose that incident to make it clear to me that I was a pretty reckless driver who didn’t deserve to drive his car.
I was badly hurt but this time the anger that filled my system, made me promise myself that I shall not drive my father’s car again.
My mother tried to pacify me, though without sparing a single word to tell my father how his aggressive ways were jeopardising the well-being of the family.
To make things further difficult for me, the car in which I was confident I could drive should the need arise anytime, was sold by my father (within a fortnight of the above incident) to upgrade to a pricey model that he (indirectly) made clear he wouldn’t let anyone but himself drive.
I had made up my mind that I shall save enough money to buy a car of my own (irrespective of how much time this would take).
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’d be well aware that I have been working from home and that doesn’t allow for making a lot of money. This was rather critical because I had lost all of my belongings and the money I’d earned (thanks to the betrayal of my ex-husband) during my stay abroad.
In the meantime, I hoped and prayed that someday, my father will see sense in my decision to drive regularly. That day didn’t dawn for the next two years. By then I was clear that all these years my father had been preventing me from driving because he didn’t want to lose the position of the alpha-male of the family. He wanted me to follow suit of my mother and stay restricted to the four walls of the home unless he wanted me to do otherwise. Maybe, that’s how things are in every patriarchal family, but with every passing minute, I could feel the urge to break free build up in me.
It’s a very complicated and heartbreaking realization. Though I am grateful to the universe for helping me find the elusive answers.
Finally, when my savings hinted that I had enough funds to go ahead and buy a decent family car, I announced at the dining table that I was going to buy a new car with an automatic gear shift on Pari’s birthday that year.
“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen
I expected resistance, but there was none. I decided to not overthink it and to go ahead with my plan. I opted for a car that had a strong engine, was within my budget, made for a comfortable family car yet had an automatic gear shift (for the sake of peace during family drives).
Finally, four months ago, I bought my first car in India.
I have been driving it regularly ever since. There are still days when my father gets angry with the way I drive, he still doubts my parking skills, but things are no longer what they were before. I can take Pari or my mother for shopping or drop them anywhere without having to worry about my father’s mood or the need to have him accompany us everywhere.
I have come a long way in gaining the freedom to drive, in a country where there are no restrictions on women driving a car. In the due course, I have re-learnt driving many times, have been away from the driving seat for years at stretch.
In hindsight, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for my ex-husband for being my cool-headed coach in the early days when I (re)learnt to drive fearlessly, for being the one who’d taken the leap of faith and bought a car with an automatic gear shift.
Today I can safely say, that though it took a long time, I am proud of myself for never giving up and finally having acquired the freedom of driving a car, confidently. Though my battle isn’t over yet. In due course of time, I hope to switch to driving a car with a manual gear shift. There’s a long way ahead but until then I am going to drive to my heart’s content.
“Keep your best wishes, close to your heart and watch what happens”
― Tony DeLiso
The song on my mind: Ruk jana nahin, tu kahin haar ke ~Imtihan