Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wrrrrrrrrroooooooommmmm power!

I've been driving all my life. But the first I remember of it is when my parents bought me a cycle, BSA champ. This was probably when I was around 8 years old. I didn't find any pictures of the brand-I-had-then on the net. These days the BSA champs are all colourful. Mine was just a plain white one. I remember riding it for long with the balancing wheels on and never taking them off. My cousins all learnt earlier than me, but still I refused to consider the riding-without-the-balancing-wheels option :-p. The final straw came when Darsh learnt how to balance :-D. That was when I finally got them removed and first enjoyed a cycle ride without the grating sound of the balancing wheels (fell a couple of times in the process :-D).

I soon grew bigger and the cycle was no longer a fit for me. When I was 12 years old, I got a brand new BSA Streetcat. It was dark blue and it had yellow coloured stretched-thin cats all over (Again I didn't find any snaps over the internet. I have a sketch of it that I drew at home, but well, maybe next time). Remember that one?

Boom boom shakalakha, boom boom shack!
Street cat's gonna knock you back!

Hehehe. I absolutely adored my new cycle. After I begged and pleaded I was even allowed to take it to school (previously I used to take the bus or walk, the school was only about 2 furlongs from my house :-p). I still remember the day I did take it to school the first time. After classes I came outside only to see many boys of my class grouped around my bike and admiring it. I proudly (and stylishly ;-) :-D), took out the cycle ;-). My bike and I went on to have a long relationship. When I finished primary school and joined a highschool which was pretty far away (about 4km I think, not sure), I preferred going on the cycle rather take the bus. Even friends had cycles, so we'd cycle back home together up until a point and then part ways in the evening.

During this time, one of our neighbours, who was also a collegue of my mom's, had a spare old rickety luna. So we borrowed it from him and thats the first ever motorized vehicle I drove :-D. Well, handling a luna was much easier than riding a cycle, ofcourse. On saturdays the school started early and so usually dad would drop me off. But after I learnt on the luna, he would allow me to drive his Kinetic Honda, though I was not even 16 then ;-). It was because of that, I think I got the hang of main traffic areas :). But I continued to take the cycle to school otherwise and even later when I entered my PU college, I took the cycle to college for the 1st year.

As soon as I turned 16, I applied for a learner's licence (it was in fact just 2 days after my 16th birthday and I remember the evaluating police officer make a comment saying "You are in a hurry alright" :-D). And soon got my own Hero Puch automatic to drive. It was red in colour and it had no gears and was just perfect. So it took me to all of my PU and later some of my engineering classes. I was a bit accident prone. I mean I wasn't deliberately doing it, but one day it'd be a cyclist coming in front of me and me skidding and the other day an autowala breaking suddenly in front and me falling. It was not very frequently, but like once in 2 months. I remember my parents being very worried about it, but later slowly I got over it...

Meanwhile I faced getting a driving license from an Indian RTO for the first time in my life. I had decided not to give bribes, so the first time I went to the RTO, I stood in long queues, spent the whole day there and the evaluator failed me with the excuse saying I didn't have a "L' board (I noticed how he had passed another fellow with the same deficiency). When I went to reapply, I was told that I didn't have a valid learner's license as my LL was for 50cc vehicle and not for above. Huh?? How the heck did they conduct the test the first time then? Total chaos! Anyways I applied for a new LL and then had to wait 3 months to attempt the practical DL test. The second time I put big white boards with a huge "L" inside, attached 2 of these to both front and back and took the test. This time I was failed without even an excuse. Also I was a witness to the guy actually taking a wad of money from somebody. God! I was getting pretty frustrated, still reapplied and took the test 3rd time and passed. Finally! This experience taught me that you either have to sacrifice time or money to get what you need.

Well, so after I got my DL, I got a nice brand new Kinetic Honda. It was a shiny dark blue and it accompanied me to my engineering college for 2 years and later my first job for 1 year and second job for 2 years. I did manage to wreck it by falling a couple of times, but not as much as I wrecked the poor Hero Puch. Looks like I had improved a bit :-D. I had to leave it when I came to US (I'm still sad that the 2-wheelers are not very common here) and now my dad's using it. As for the BSA champ, I don't remember what happened to it. Darsh used it for sometime, but later I don't remember. Mom gave away the streetcat to a friend's daughter and I remember I was very sad to give it away but it was occupying space as I wasn't using it anymore. Dad sold the Hero Puch to someone and I wasn't really sad as I thought it'd have a better owner than me ;-).

Although all this while, we had a car at home, I never really tried/bothered learning how to drive it. So though, Darsh had aleady gone ahead and started taking the car around, I was kind of never interested. After I got my job, I thought why not learn it and joined a driving school. Well, the clutch and gears always got me. I didn't feel comfy with the whole thing at all. But this time I went through the driving school for the DL and the guy being bribed nicely from the school (which was a part of the fee that I had paid to learn driving), passed me after seeing 2 minutes of my driving :-p. I still remember the evaluator sitting in the 2nd row of the car and actually throwing the pass-declaring paper towards my instructor! These people are really like fat, overgrown rats who can do what they want!

Despite getting my DL, I never really ventured out in the car. The one time I did, I scratched an auto and it cost my dad Rs.600 to get me out of the mess :-p. Auto drivers look for such opportunities. Our car wasn't even scratched, but well, that incident undermined my confidence all the more and I just took to practicing with dad just within our locality. I had the DL but really it was of no practical use. Anyways, after I got married, I did learn how to drive another vehicle. A geared Yamaha Enticer, Darsh's motorcycle. Though I actually rode it only twice, it was lots of fun and obviously lots different (make that powerful) from my Kinetic Honda.

After I came to US, I never really took any interest in driving, though Sri was continually encouraging me to (he had selfish interests of sitting like a maharaja while I drive, which I have been doing all this while ;-) >:) :-D). About 5 months ago, I finally got a driving manual to learn all the rules here. After memorizing the rules and the specifications, I took the learners's test and passed the test. It consisted of a vision test (to determine whether you notice things on road) and 2 written tests, one on rules and the other on road signs. It was pretty easy and I got my instruction permit. Here with an IP, you can drive the car but only if you have another person who is 21 years or older with a valid DL.

Its ulta driving as I call it (as its opposite to how its done in India). And most of the cars here have an auto transmission. So there is no clutch and no gears, all you need to care about is the accelerator and break. Man, was that a relief! Here the rules are what matter most. In India, roads are chaos with no lanes concept and people driving everywhere. Here, since there are hardly any 2-wheelers and even if there are, since they are supposed to be treated equivalent to cars, there's not much of confusion on roads. There are clear-cut lines for rules and the police catch people only if they cross that line. Since most people follow rules, you just have to be conscious and not be extremely careful like in India. I started off on our old Nissan Sentra and got the hang of it pretty soon. Whenever we went off to the gym ( a post will be coming up on that soon) or grocery-shopping, I drove. So slowly (very slowly :-p) after being corrected in all aspects by Sri , after 4 months, I finally took the driving test for the first time last Tuesday.

But things went wrong. I had taken the old Nissan Sentra to the test. Firstly the window on the evaluator's side malfunctioned and I could feel he got irritated then and there. Further he switched on the AC and the engine being old, couldn't handle the AC and it stalled at a point. Well, me being nervous as it is, panicked and made a couple of mistakes, one of which was not being careful enough for a "Stop" sign. This was hazardous, as "STOP" means you have to stop at an intersection and look carefully both sides before crossing the road. Despite this, I completed parallel parking (hadn't even practiced this and had thought I would fail because of this) and a turnabout (page 18 on this manual) without problems. Anyways, the evaluator declared me failed and asked me to take another driving test appointment for next week.

I was very disappointed with myself and the car. But smart Sri, whose idea was "If she falls from a horse, lets get her on an elephant", immediately that evening insisted that I drive the SUV and practice on it. I was scared first, as the SUV is wider and lengthier than the car. But as soon as I started driving, I could feel the difference, the power and the handling were wayyyyy better. So after driving around for a week, I went to the driving test on this Tuesday taking the SUV with me. The evaluator who came in was different and considerably nicer too ;-). He asked me what went wrong last time and I told him that the car gave some mechanical problems and that I panicked. He saw the SUV and commented good-naturedly that he was sure that this car wouldn't give any problems :-D. This time I was very careful, took care of all Stop and Yield signs, did the parallel parking and the turnabout successfully and basically didn't make a single mistake. I also noticed that the evaluator was observing all my actions and making notes. When we finally finished the test, he passed me saying that I drove very well, but that I'm green around the edges :-D, meaning that I need a bit more experience. Oh man, I was so happy. Thanks to the patient efforts of first my dad and later Sri, now I am able to drive a car around confidently :).

Now I can share atleast a bit of driving when we go on long drives. I have gone on one of the freeways here and it feels wonderful to drive at high speeds and still be in control. But I haven't driven for more than half an hour in a stretch. So need lots more practice and hope to get that by driving around :).

We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly,
but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey,
or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way - Anonymous.


Chickoo retorted...

Congrats! I will add a post on how I got my DL in US. God it was quite an adventure. I have never ridden a cycle or a luna when I was in India. It was always either autos or BTS buses. I have been driving here for about 5 years now.

Keep it going girl!

Soumya retorted...

Hey, took me back in years man! It's amazing how u string together a narrative spanning so many years. I'm not quite sure of the BSA champ, but I do remember ur street cat, hero puch and kinetic honda. Of course, u gave me rides so many times. Now, I can't help but think of my own dear hero ranger. Funny, that I went from cycle in B'lore to car in the US.

Glad that u got ur licence. Now I can call on ur cell and hear Sriram say "she's driving now, she'll call u back". With all the amazing trips u take, u'll have great chances to drive. Good going girl!

Deeps retorted...

Deepa, thanks. Would love to hear about your experience. Man, driving a car here without any driving exp at all is amazing!

Soum, hehehehe, I love to tell stories, I guess :). And your cycle to car transition is great re :). Thanks, I think when you called the other day, and Sri did say that :-D.

Thanu retorted...

Driving here is not that hard everyone follows rules. Every time I visit India I just flip seeing how ppl drive there, and still get home safe.

Chitra retorted...

Nice write-up. I love driving in the US. I am sure you will too. The speed and smoothness of the drive are wonderful.

I used to drive in India long back, but since our return, I haven't even tried! It is scary here. Driving when we went out of town in the US was fun. But, I never drove on tricky roads like the mountains etc. One of the best drives, I remember, was to Vegas. Fond memories. :) Thanks!

Deeps retorted...

Thanu, I agree. I am totally at the edge of my seat in India, especially when my brother drives at high speeds on the highways. I always think that some cow is going to pop out of somewhere and we will hit it..

Chitra, thanks I'm sure the long-driving will be a new fun thing to do too :).

Smi retorted...

I've been a reader of ur blog for a while now, call me a lurker if u will!:)
I enjoy reading ur posts-I'm hoping u'd let me blogroll u..
P.S BTW, I was the the one to let Pavana know of ur post that mentioned her!

Deeps retorted...

Smi, I have 2 tell you thanks twice then :). Pavana mailed me and now we are in touch :).

And you don't need my permission to blogroll me :-D. Blogroll away!

Orchid retorted...

I hadn't driven anything but a tricycle in India...yes, dad spoilt me that way...and after a couple of years of procrastination got my license here.....actually it worked out quite well...since i did not have to unlearn everything :) congrats...enjoy your new found freedom!

Deeps retorted...

Orchid, hmm tricycle straight to car, thats really something :).