Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My (Love) Hate Relationship With Driving - Post by Akhil Mittal

Okay I have a confession to make. I am a man but I do not like cars. I always knew I was different from other boys while growing up. I had absolutely no interest in checking out the new Mercedes models and unlike other pubescent teens, did not get aroused when I spotted an exotic car with both horsepower and mileage.

It was easier in India to hide my condition and come up with excuses to avoid driving. India has more cows on the road than cars, so it was totally legit when I refused to drive citing religious reasons of not wanting to hurt them unintentionally. Also, with people giving two hoots about traffic rules here, it was totally understandable when I insisted I would rather shut my eyes and pray for my dear life from the back seat than play daredevil on the roads.

But my mom caught up with me sooner than I realized. One day she took me aside and told me that she knew about my condition, but was worried about my reputation in the society, thereby pleading me to at least get a driving license to feel accepted. So I got one just for her happiness. But then my cousins wanted to celebrate this feat of mine with a grand road trip.

I was tired of this pretense by now and suggested to take the train/flight instead. My brothers looked so scandalized by my blasphemy that I finally decided to tell them the truth about by locomotive (dis)orientation. It was such a liberating experience. I was finally out of the bonnet!

My revelation caused yet another problem which I had not anticipated. My extended family members were at their wit's end thinking in what form to seek dowry for me, now that I had made abundantly clear that I did not want an expensive car. They had almost zeroed down upon a White Elephant when I told them about my intention of marrying for love. My relatives do not like me.

With no love lost between me and my relatives, I turned to my friends to have fun. So blind was my trust that when they suggested a trip which was supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable, I did not care to ask them relaxing and enjoyable for who.

They had planned a Scotland trip for 9 days with us being on the road almost every day. Only once we landed there was I informed that I was only one of the two guys who knew how to drive. I felt betrayed, but more than that I felt jealous. All my friends were younger and had grown up in modern times where open-minded parents respected their choice of mode of transport without coercing them to learn driving.

With the responsibility of ferrying my friends put squarely on my shoulders, needless to say I felt like an Uber driver for most part with no option of even being able to decline the trip. While on road, every time my wife and friends gushed about the scenic drive, I wanted to make them aware that I was too busy concentrating on the road to enjoy the scenery around. And the only way I could enjoy any beauty was if I drove straight into the sea or over the cliff – which I was close to doing anyway had I been forced to drive another mile.

Alas, since I am too dependent on my friends (in the absence of relatives) and too afraid of my wife (in the absence of extramarital affairs), I kept my mouth shut and tried to give my best look of being overwhelmed by the nature’s aesthetics. I switched to a more neutral look few days later when my wife casually put fibre-rich cereals in front of me during breakfast, emphasizing I looked constipated while driving.

My entire Scotland trip was littered with incidents which proved that I am not cut out for driving. During one of the drives, we were bored and started playing Antakshari. I was in the middle of a soulful song when the car behind us started honking. After confirming that I was maintaining the speed limit, I concluded that the car driver was just providing background music to my beautiful rendition. Imagine my shock when the car soon overtook us with the driver showing us the middle finger. It is not exactly a sign of appreciation in any culture.

Turns out I was in the fast lane. After many more such honks and gestures, we finally realized that speed limits are for sissies and one needs to respectfully give way to a fast car in case it comes too close behind. Also, if you want to avoid a brawl with the Scots.

In another incident, I had to take a left turn when I saw a car approaching from the other side. I took the turn, as the other car was quite far – in fact at a distance where in India three cars could have crossed by, and the fourth one would have had to block everyone’s way, but would have done so nonetheless.

But here the situation was different. I did make the turn seamlessly, as expected, but for some reason oblivious to me, it made the car driver go berserk. He started honking like a madman and flashing the headlights. I stopped the car to understand his cause for concern. He came up to me and yelled ‘I could have crushed you!’

Now this statement confused me - was he angry that I put him in a situation where he might have crushed me or disappointed that he wasn't able to. Anyway, I decided to apologize, as looking at his size I could not comprehend why he would need a car to crush anyone anyway. My apology in turn confused him. Maybe he expected more aggression from a man behind the wheels.

Come to think of it, road rage is the closest most men get to action / adventure. The Scot then said ‘I was too close’, this time definitely sounding more disappointed than angry. With no better response in my mind, I apologized again. Now convinced that he will not get any action he walked away, I guess to look for someone else to crush.

This entire traumatic experience has given me some very valuable lessons. Now I ask for a detailed itinerary before any trip, along with the proposed medium of transport to get from one place to another. I have also offered my wife to select destinations for our future trips. She has complimented me for my exotic choices without realizing that the only search criteria I have is ‘Places which cannot be reached by road’. We are both happy now.


  1. Damn fun post. There is a "go shala" near my house..lots of cows indeed. And you sure will be happy with the driverless car revolution. And great pic to go with the theme..of you using a cab.

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