As per my mother, the world has two kinds of people, the ones who have a vehicle and the ones who do not. Unfortunately for most of his life, my father had belonged to the former category and my mother wanted me to belong to the latter category. It was not just my mother. The definition of independence as per one of my wife’s cousins was the possession of and the ability to use a vehicle. Bottom line is society knows a man by his vehicle. So if one has to raise his social standing, one has to have a vehicle.
My quest for a vehicle started at the age of 11, when I tried to learn to ride a bicycle from my friends. I was just 2 days into this exercise that an accident cut it short. I was hospitalized for 2 months and grounded for the next 5 years. The bicycle had had nothing to do with this incident. But my parents followed the German traffic rules where one can lose his driving license for committing a traffic violation while on foot.
But at 16, it was time again to once again undertake the quest. This time my father himself decided to take time out to teach me to ride a bicycle. I was taking time but I was learning and it seemed soon I would be proficient in cycling. Then came the fateful day! There was this steep slope. Father let go of me and I began to pick up speed. I pressed the brake. The brake was not working. I tried to put my foot down and stop. But the velocity was too high to stop with a foot. So I had no option to go on till I came up against a barrier. As luck would have it, the barrier turned out to be a barbed fence. The bleeding all over my body decided things for me for the time being.
After a few more adventures in the next few years, which included injuring my best friend badly, trying to ride a locked bicycle badly damaging my friend’s bicycle, I managed to acquire the necessary skill and was soon a proud owner of a bicycle. But the Gods would not have it. Hermes, the God of the thieves decided to intervene and sent one of his disciples to relieve me of my bicycle. I decided to accept the divine mandate that the missing bicycle indicated and I never attempted to become a bicyclist ever again.
I was soon getting into my twenties. This is the spring time of the human life where the males of the species strut around in their best plumage to attract the females. The cigarette and the motor bike were the coolest signs of masculinity that assured success with the girls. My world was again getting divided into two. The cool punks who vroomed around the city with hot babes and the uncool nerds who sat alone in their rooms with their noses down their books. And it was clear where I stood. My father made a half hearted attempt to remedy the situation by arranging a friend of his to teach me to ride a bike. But the ground under my feet was not firm. The bike skidded over sand injuring me and my instructor. My father’s friend decided that my father’s good will was not worth the occupational hazard of teaching me to ride a bike. And I never learnt to ride a bike nor ever manage to go even half way towards acquiring anything close to a girl friend.
Years rolled by and I had earned my stripes in the corporate world. Once again the great divide reentered my life. Having a car was considered a mark of seniority in the organization and pressure was building on me to acquire a car. I went for driving lessons – not once, not twice but three times at three different driving schools. But still my confidence was not high and I decided to hire a chauffeur. So at last I was one of the privileged ones who had a vehicle. But I had to depend on the driver. Now I understood my wife’s cousin’s definition of independence better. But still life went on. Well, for some time. Once again by luck stepped in. This time recession was the spoil sport. I lost my job and my new job did not pay me enough to be able to afford a driver.
So reluctantly for a fourth time I decided to learn driving. This time I hired a personal trainer. After a intensive month long program I finally got my car on the road. I was at last able to drive. My mother’s eyes were filled with tears. I had succeeded where my father had failed. My father-in-law organized a party in my honor. My cousins from abroad called up to congratulate me. I had successfully cleared the rites of passage in the modern world.
Well that sounds like a happy ending, doesn’t it? I learnt to drive a car and lived happily ever after? Well not really. That was just the beginning rather than the end. Within a month, I was negotiating a right turn quickly when a taxi came speeding by. There was a screeching sound as it brushed past. I tried to ignore the sound and move on. But the taxi driver parked his taxi in front of me and pulled me out of my car. He called me names and demanded payment for the scratches on his taxi. He was an expert street fighter and I had no street fighting skills. All the people on the road stood by him and said it was my fault and I only had to pay. I conceded defeat and had to cough up ten grand and make a hasty exit with a dents both on my car and in my finances. Self driving seemed to be getting more expensive than the chauffer salary at this rate.
The next 2 months seemed uneventful. Then one day I had to take a U turn at a divider. A school bus was coming towards me at a great speed. I had heard of how rash school bus drivers can be. I decided to take a quick turn to avoid the bus. As I turned around, once again I heard the all too familiar screeching sound. This time it was not a taxi. It was a bright red Swift car. A sweet looking woman got out of the car. My confidence went up. She definitely did not look like a street fighter. I had the upper hand this time. Or at least that’s what I thought. I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to cow her down into agreeing it was her fault. But she just disarmed me by asking me for my mobile number. No girl had ever asked me for my phone number in all these years. First time a girl was asking for my number. I was floating in the air. I gave her my number. She took it and left.
An hour after I reached my office, I got a call on my mobile. A rough male voice spoke at the other end. It was the lady’s husband. He was extremely ferocious and apparently knew all the big Whigs in the city. I was once again getting a déjà vu feeling. I knew where this was all heading. I listened to him for some time and finally gave in. Again I had to part with my hard earned money, this time twenty grand. Once I agreed to pay up, the man suddenly underwent a transformation. He become all gracious and amiable. His wife welcomed me home with a cup of tea. I had the tea, gave the money and returned sadly.
Maybe car is not my vehicle of choice after all. Maybe I should move on to something else – a helicopter or a bus. Phew! Life had been so good belonging to the category of men who did not use vehicles like my dad. I remembered those days I used to put one leg on the other and travel like a king to office on the company bus, sleeping or reading story books. Sometimes I woe the day man invented the cursed wheel that has made life so miserable. Life would have been so much simpler riding on elephants or horses. Recently I got to ride a horse by myself. It was absolutely hassle free. I could almost feel a connection with the animal that I have never felt with these cursed automatons.
Note: The picture is taken from the world of war craft. (Wow.com). This site is non commercial. So if Warcraft see me using it, I hope you will be happy for the free publicity.