Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aatha Naa Pass Ayten!!

Yadhatya kachav rudrahan...yeah ok...this right turn right?

udaha abhisuryaha...there you go...straight ahead...ok..yeah...

I was shifting between the slokam amma told me to say and responding to Al, the driving test administrator.

I remember, in India drivng tests are simple. A 40 year old man with a pad of papers will seat himself on the sidewalk of kottivakkam beach in the shades provided by the ponches of driving school agents and curious onlookers. Unless you are totally unprepared and mistake the tire for the driver's steering there is no way you fail those tests.

Here in the west, you have two levels of driving test. First is a set of 50 questions. 80% is pass mark and 30 mins is the duration. Frankly I always believed that safe driving on the road is a collective responsibility. I will drive recklessly and the other drivers should use their brakes when I need them to.

For me, to curb my instincts and write "The right of way is for an oncoming vehicle and I should wait for it to go before I turn" is like cowardly admitting "My wife has the last word in any argument and every next response is the start for a fresh one where I will lose".

But my instincts did rule at times and I made 40/50 exactly, which means I almost failed but for the karma I have done in my previous years. (This does not include the money you owe me. Send it by air mail.)

Rahu kalam, kuligai paakama, I enrolled myself for a driving class. That was a nice move but just that Mr.Sargent who was the instructor never changed his dresses in those 3 days I met him.His car was dirty, he was sweaty and he did tell about his sun glasses quite a few times that, I started having dreams in night with all the sunglasses trying to mug me at the burger king corner.

I realized he spoke the same things in same excruciatingly boring manner to every driving student. I stopped doing courtesy nods and realized that he never needed them in the first place. He talked and soon will die of compulsive talking. I dare St.Peter ask him anything at the gates of heaven or hell, lest he starts again about his sunglasses. Enough said.

The point about the second test is simple. You should parallel park your car without hitting the cones and then drive on all possible streets doing all correct things at right time and stay calm. And yeah, you should be alert, fake the care you normally dont have, if possible smile and give an orgy to the drivers in other cars. You should break like you are picking a flower from under a tree and yet the car should stop like a man who gives up to his wife. Smooth and submissive.

While you do all these, you should understand the nasal drawl they call as English here and show courteous smile and answers to the tet administrator as though he is your wife's father.

Even after you do all these needfuls there are some physical limitations you cannot correct. Blame your parents if you are under 5' 5''. These seats wont lean that forward, nor do their mirrors swivel that wide for an asian dwarf like you and I. So you start relying on the very instincts we use in India while driving and hoping that no American car driver in that vicinity had a fight with his wife or his/her pet has not hurt its mouth eating the extra large burgers.

I did all of these preparations first time and forgot to concentrate on the road. Bad take off. The admin yelled at me. The fifth minute I flouted a rule of giving "right of way" to an oncoming joker. I failed. I tried to say sorry that I dint mean really and talk my way through continuing the test. he dint toe that line. Too bad.

Without going too much into the money game involved, I must say the driving trainer and the admin made a lot of money on me. They now add to the list - a long one - Employers, Credit card companies, white collar theives who have ripped me...

So coming back to the first line of the post, I relied on God, Mom's advice and wishes from my wife to make it this time. Everything went perfect. Parallel parking happened so well that the admin (new one today) would give me a hug and cry like he has seen God. It dint happen. He was rather unfriendly or he has a tumor in his business end which needs immediate operation.

I did make a couple of mistakes, got yelled at. I gave back "beauty paegent" smiles and fake apologies. It included a meek smile when the admin asked "Go on dude...what...are you waiting for easter?". Finally I parked at the finish line and he congratulated me for job done (well is missing there, you see).

I am a qualified driver now, which means, the next time you expect me to yield you the way, I will show my middle finger.

Phir bhi dil hai hindustani!

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