When we were growing up, mum was the parent that took charge of our upbringing and there were a few things she dreamed for me and my sibling – that we learn to ride the cycle, to drive and to swim because she did not get a chance to learn any of these (Eventually she learnt to drive, but that’s another story). This desire of her’s and my dad’s own secret wish to one day own and drive a car must have been genetically passed on to me because one of my oldest memories from childhood is a strong wish to drive. I was so crazy about driving that I would sit on my father’s lap and steer the car from a very young age. This was one of the few things he would indulge in, my father otherwise was strict and did not like to flout rules.

With each passing year, the desire to drive got stronger and I couldn’t wait to turn 18. My father laid out conditions – that I must first learn to wash the car, take charge of its daily maintenance (in those days we needed to monitor the radiator water level, check the engine oil level, check for rust during the rainy season) and learn to change tyres. I did all this dutifully and with enthusiasm.

I still remember the jubilation of passing the test and my first solo drive over a distance of 2km πŸ™‚ Yes, 2km is a long way from home in my small town πŸ™‚

My dad who was otherwise wary of anyone else behind the wheels and very possessive of his car would encourage me to take the car whenever I wished to go out. That was a huge compliment and an affirmation of his confidence in my ability to drive.

I used to drive a Premier Padmini car. The car had a bench seat and this meant that the seat could not be slid forward which was a big issue for ‘mini-me’ as my feet could not reach the pedals. So I used a special custom made cushion as a back rest to help reduce the distance between my feet and the pedals πŸ™‚ I am so tiny that my friends would say that they would wave out to the car that didn’t seem to have a driver because they were very sure I was behind the wheels πŸ™‚

The only time I took the car to college (which was 55km away from home) was upon graduating, when I had to bring home my stuff from the hostel. My friends and I made the most of that trip – a bunch of us drove past the boys’ hostel and much to their amusement, screamed and howled like banshees and returned with triumphant looks on our faces πŸ™‚

That one birthday party that my father allowed me to go to was very cinderella-esque because I had to get home by 10pm. I kept the promise, thanks to being able to drive myself home instead of having to beg someone at the party to drop me home. This might sound silly to a younger reader, but, trust me, back then, it wasn’t easy growing up in a small town where everyone knew you and loved to gossip.

I was the official family driver – I drove my sister to wherever she wanted to go, I did the grocery shopping, I dropped and picked friends and family from the bus station, airport and train station.

When I got married and moved overseas I had to apply for a new driver’s license and go through the entire cycle of classes and tests and came on top, much to the surprise of my colleagues at work and friends in that new country. The better half and I drove around quite a bit. Two drivers better than one, don’t you think? πŸ™‚

We moved back to India and our first car here was the Toyota Qualis (I don’t think they make that car any more!). Many a heads would turn to see a lady driver at ease behind the wheels of this ‘big’ car. This inspired some of my lady friends to learn to drive.

By now we were clocking miles on our holidays in India and overseas and I was driving long distance solo with my kids in tow, sometimes with the better half and sometimes with extended family and friends.
I am not sure if other lady drivers get asked these ridiculous questions, but I do, and quite often πŸ™‚
1) How do you drive on the ghats (mountainous roads with hairpin bends)? (Like everyone else I think….and a tad bit better than them me thinks πŸ™‚)
2) Do you still drive that big monster of a car? (Yes I still drive ‘big’ cars πŸ™‚)
3) Where is the driver? (Its me me me por favor!)
4) How do you drive when you can’t see much? (Since I wear the required corrective glasses, I think they mean I am too short to drive (ugh!)!! Good estimation is what I use to make up for my ‘inability’ to see.)

Crazy as this might seem, I have this ability to register in memory, without any effort, every pot hole, speed bump and traffic light changing sequence on the roads I frequent! 

My kids are as crazy about driving! The older one signed up for driving classes on her 18th birthday and her sibling will follow suit, that I am quite sure of!! Having learnt to drive and trained under my watchful eyes, the older one seems to have the traits of becoming a great driver. My younger child is waiting to get behind the wheels!

My dream is to drive a maniacally long distance over several days perhaps, with all four of us taking turns to drive the different sections of the route. That dream might just become a reality soon. Fingers crossed!!

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