For the last 21 yrs (if you include cycling since I was 3), I’ve been driving. Exactly the same day last week, I went to the local RTO and surrendered my driving license.
I stood there in the middle of the chequered floor, hands shaking, mind drifting. My feet automatically took me towards the officer waiting there, while memories swirled through my eyes shifting one after the other..
I remember the first taste I had of driving. I was 3, and I tagged along with my dad who was busy following my elder brother who was indeed busy with himself ogling at the bicycles displayed fighting to make up his mind about which one was going to be his first. Soon, I was chasing my brother’s first cycle when he was driving it around in the front yard, racing against him, losing and threatening in between heavy sobs and my mother’s calming hands, “You wait till I get my own cycle!” My brother would inevitably waggle his tongue and drive away splendidly to join his friends. I would watch them in awe, and turn to look into my mother’s eyes, eagerly anticipating. Everytime.
I never waited for the tricycle. Went for the cycle with those little wheels to the sides at the age 5. I was a rider, and I knew it. I remembered my first time, fearing the track my bro had biked on ever so often. Baba came upto me, held my tender hands firmly in place on the handle, ran with me as I rode along his strides, and how I knew I would never fall, with him standing beside me. Instant memory of hitting the 80-yr old dadi wearing a white cotton saadi, and watching her fall into a pool of mud flashed across my eyes. I let out a teary chuckle.
My first driving lessons, first driving license, international license, first car, first drive, first long drive, favourite songs being sung while driving, first accident, worst accident, friends learning from my car, imitating irritating people complaining about parking problems just to make the moment lighter, first servicing, terrible shock looking at the servicing bill.. All these memories came rushing back to me as I stood in front of the officer.
Last week, I ran my car into a boy. And the boy is seriously injured. Not dead, thankfully. I shivered as I got out. I hadn’t seen him at all. I took my vision for granted for far too long. And now it was time to pay. The world’s safety is more important than my comfort. Come to think of it, my own safety is more important than my comfort. I cannot drive anymore. It was a fact that I had to accept. As I stood up to leave, I wiped the tears gushing down my face. It was time to shift gears. Literally.
I now use the painfully reliable local public transport. The autos? Yeah. I’m aware that pretty soon I’d be spending next month’s salary. And the buses, the trains? You can never rely on them for getting anywhere on time. Neither can you rely on me to get anywhere on time. And when we’re both together, well, my boss knows best what it’s like. His proudest moment came when he said at the loudest, “You’re only a 35 minutes late!”
Still, the local transport gives me the power to go where I want without waiting for someone to drop me, or having to witness the “Oh! I have to drop you too! Damn!” syndrome too many a times for my comfort. And it’s a wonderful opportunity to watch so many people who, like me, use the public transport to beat their limitations. And get along with life hustling and bustling.
Pretty soon, I will have my very own Volkswagen with a chauffeur. i.e. my dad and his Maruti. I remember how he used to drop me at school. He’s happy to drop me at work now. And I’m happy the good old days are back.
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