Driving Towards Freedom

One of the biggest pain points for me here has been driving. Back in January, in a bout of frustration of not being able to move around on my own, I compelled At to let me drive his car. Of course, the rules unnerved me but I wanted to give it a try. Handling the car or the city roads wasn’t difficult. I was confident until I went to the freeway (yes, on Day 1). I freaked out. I didn’t know what I was doing. I would press the brake on the fast track freeway in a moment of panic and At would yell – DO NOT BRAKE ON THE FREEWAY. The speed totally unnerved me. I wouldn’t go beyond 40 mph and At would panic again – SPEED! SPEED! Changing lanes was a nightmare. I confused people, I drove between lanes and people honked behind me. Someone must have showed me the finger too.

I gave up.

At pestered me again to start driving. Less confident this time, I tried again. Sometimes I sailed and was happy. Ah. Of course I could do it. I will start driving here in no time. Until some giant sized truck would threaten me from behind or the speeding cars would freak me out again.

I started avoiding driving. One whole month of April went without me sitting behind the wheel.

My cousin came for a week in May and I either took her around in buses or waited for At to take us around. I hated myself for being so scared and unsure of my own abilities. Why, I had heard of girls beginning to drive here within days of arrival!

I was used to be a good driver. Back in India, I was admired for my driving skills. You drive better than a man. And here I was so unconfident.

Then one day, after too much chewing over, I gave it a try again and I was good. I attacked this ‘issue’ with vigour and felt so good about myself.

Such that one day At, tired of being the only driver, asked me to take the car on my own to college. And I agreed. Not that I was totally confident. Nope. I was just tired of being so unsure and doubtful. I was tired of being a burden. I had had enough of friends and classmates dropping me off here and there. I was tired of being so dependant.

I did take the car alone to college. I did well. And I was miraculously good at sewing that day. See how a little confidence boost can do wonders to a person’s entire morale!

Having done well on college-home route, I needed to move on. The whole continent moves on GPS. I had to fall in line too. And thus began my rendezvous with unknown roads. I used GPS to travel to newer places, At suddenly freed of half the responsibilities – grocery store, doctor visits, entertaining guests – I could do it all on my own now.

My whole feeling changed! I felt empowered. Everything looked more beautiful now. I was no longer a stranger; I finally belong here! I hold a space of land and road here; I am something here.

And yet again, I am a good driver.

So confident was I (and At), that I went to my final driving test alone. Despite all the anxiety, I was so sure I would clear. What I did not realize was, I totally missed the window of doubt. Even after a smooth 15 minutes ride in my car, the stone faced examiner said try again next time. He left the evaluation sheet on the passenger seat and left. I was speechless. What just happened? Unsatisfactory, I saw ticked on the sheet. Nooo, is this for real??

They failed me! I wailed over phone to At. That’s okay, its common here, he said.

No! It cannot happen with me! I was (err… am) a good driver!

I brooded. Complained to all my friends. I bit my pride and told them I had failed.

But unlike earlier, this brooding didn’t last long. After a couple of hours, I was back to normal, doing other things. Yet another ‘down’ of the various ‘ups and downs’ here. This will pass too.

Like M very nicely put – the good thing about bad times is that they change.


13 thoughts on “Driving Towards Freedom

  1. aww…they will NS- don’t worry 🙂 And if anyone wants to know what bad driving is, you know whom to remember (hehe- my car is even more bruised than it was when you last saw it :P)

  2. Driving is such a big thing isn’t it? And you’re so right about it giving you a whole lot of freedom. I didn’t drive in India and when I came to Aus realised how isolating it can be to not drive and depend purely on public transport or others. Eventually got my license in 2008 (after being here since 2005). And I failed my test twice before finally getting my license. So there is hope 😉 I’m sure you’ll be right next time…it’s a money making thing my opinion…

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    • Yes, I am going for it again with full vigour! Thanks!

      PS: I have seen your blog several times and I appreciate your creativity..

  4. Yay!! Congratulations! Life is so much better now, right Neha?
    I still avoid freeways as much as I can. The merges scare me. 🙂

    See you soon. 😉

    • Hey Divya.. Yes. Life is SO MUCH better now.. I never knew ability to drive here could turn around my life like this!

      Looking fwd to meeting you 🙂

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