Thursday, July 30, 2009


I accidentally bumped into my exam schedule and wondered why I didn’t find it all this while. I looked at the date my first exam is going to start, and realized exams were just 10 days away. They were to last for a week, and that meant I was preparing for some 5-7 tests. The tests are pretty intense, and it is during these times that I always regret not having studied harder. I calculated the number of chapters I was supposed to study and realized that I had some 25 chapters to finish in some 10 days. Studying 2.5 chapter everyday would leave no time for revision, so I must speed up. I must target finishing at least 4 chapters a day to begin with, to give me enough acceleration. This means I need to study for 14-15 hours a day. I don’t really remember what was I busy doing throughout the year, but I am clearly not prepared for the exams. I also know that if I start to put in all my waking hours, I can manage to finish my target and do well in the exams. I will not aim for getting the highest this time as I do not have that much time. I will rather ensure that I skim through everything so that I do not end up leaving unanswered stuff. I promise I’ll study earlier and harder the next time.

But something in me doesn’t feel right. I feel the pressure, but not really the killing urge to get back to my books. It’s a bright and sunny day outside. Summer is here, and people are out there enjoying themselves. I don’t really feel like studying. I feel like standing on a railway platform, supposed to catch the train in front of me. The train starts rolling slowly. I know I must hop on to the train. But something in me doesn’t let me lunge after the train. I stand and watch as the train leaves in front of me.

I realize I am not prepared for the exams this time.

I wake up from my dream to realize that it is not quite 5am. I still have an hour’s worth of sleep. I hug my pillow tight and go back to sleep.

I am glad it was just a dream. I am glad when I wake up an hour later, I will get ready for office and not for some exam I am not prepared to take.

I wonder why even after one year of bidding student life adieu, I dream of exams approaching.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Driving: instructor versus non-instructor

For weeks, I struggled with the idea of having an instructor versus a friend teach me how to drive. I could afford the former, and I had plenty of the latter. People had mixed opinions. Some balked at how I could even think of coughing up $400 for 6 hours of training. Some felt it is a necessary skill done best with professional help. Of course there is this hesitancy of getting into a friends car and learn driving. I don’t think I would be comfortable if someone learnt driving using my car.

I wouldn’t have thought of a driving school if I was a student. But I wouldn’t have bought a car in the first place if I was a student. If I could afford a car, I could afford driving lessons too. A little bit of market research later, I had signed up for a driving school.

I think that was a great idea. It is like being taught at home versus being taught at school. Of course I hear that great men like Tagore were home-schooled. But if Tagore were to learn driving, I’d recommend he go to a driving school too.

First, you need to be with someone who is more confident and less scared than you are. I am talking about steering something at least a few tones heavy, in the right direction, and at the right speed. You might not end up head on colliding with another car, but even a minor dent or scratch caused by a small accident is not desirable.

The best thing I liked is that my instructor has her own set of brakes. So while for the first few hours I struggled with how to and how much to move the steering, stopping my vehicle during need was one less thing to care about.

My instructor talks to me non-stop. At first it was annoying that she should ask me how sweets are made in India when I am struggling to juggle the steering, indicators, mirrors, brake, and accelerator. I was holding on to the steering tight, as if I was holding on to my life, my knuckles white. I was confusing between brakes and the gas (accelerator). Every time I saw a car behind me, I felt mentally pressurized to do something. She calmly asked me to speed up if I saw a car behind me. I have never felt more helpless.

Eventually you get the hang of it. My instructor had more confidence in me than I did in myself. She encouraged me, challenged me, even pushed me. The first friend who started to teach me drive never let me hit the gas. The second friend almost curled up in a fetal position on the rightmost corner of the car, holding on to the door and his dear life while I drove. Their fears are understandable. But things didn’t work out.

2 classes with the instructor and I had graduated from residential buildings to little streets. I was braking, accelerating, indicating, yielding and parallel parking. I was backing around the curb. I was changing lanes. Freeway driving hasn’t happened yet, but it will not be long.

To cut a long story short, go to a driving school if you can afford it. It is expensive, but it is better than the tension I cause myself and my friends in the process of learning to drive. See it as an investment. No amount of parking-lot driving can prepare you for driving on the main streets. I strongly recommend learning from an instructor rather than be a road hazard. I’d rather lose money than lose friends.

Btw, thanks for the good wishes. I am now the proud owner of a nice car.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The first step

Forgive me readers for the deluge of car posts. When doing or even thinking about something takes so much of your time and attention, this is inevitable. For years, I bore the embarrassment and discomfort of answering the question- “Why I do not know how to drive”. Unfortunately, the truth (Because I did not drive in India and feel that I am too old to start now) didn’t seem good enough.

I follow a personal philosophy, for better or for worse. Resist till you have to relent. For years, I resisted. Then finally this summer, I decided to relent. I finally got tired of asking people for a ride, or depend on others for my love for traveling. I decided to mentally prepare myself to drive.

Usually people decide to learn, learn driving using someone else’s car, get a license, save, and buy a car. I didn’t really think I wanted to spend the energy to ask someone into letting me drive his car. I decided to buy a car.

Having a job and some financial stability makes it a lot easier to achieve your goals. After one month of serious car hunting, I finally bought a car. I bought a car when I still didn’t know how to drive one. As of today, I own a car. I also spent a fortune taking driving lessons. But it has been worth the money and the effort. When I am not taking lessons, I have the flexibility to practice driving in my own car. I am yet to take the road test, but as of today, four driving classes later, I can nicely parallel park, back around the corner, and do non-freeway driving. It did take a lot of effort, but the pain has been worth it. I think it was a good decision to buy a car.

Wish me luck for my test. I really cannot wait to pass the test, learn to drive on the freeway, and take off to some place I have always wanted to. Till then, I’ll be committed to my driving lessons.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Car (e) free

Things that I am told.

What? You still don’t know how to drive?

How many years have you been in the US?

Come on, it is not that difficult. Millions do it. Even women do it.

Don’t you feel like a handicap?

Oh, it doesn’t take more than a few days.

Things that I say.
Yes, I don’t drive.

Yes, you are right, I have never driven.

Yes yes, damn right. I have never driven in India as well. Or Nigeria. I have never handled the steering wheel.

Yes I know the statistics. I know the numbers. I have been here for 3 years now. I commute 20 miles each way to work everyday. That is 40 miles of travel. That is 3 hours of travel. That is travel worth 3 bus changes. And yes, I still haven’t learnt how to drive.

Yes it is not that difficult. Millions do it. And that’s why I am scared. The millions we are talking about are right there on the streets.

Yes, I know it is easier than driving in India. But it still remains a skill I haven’t mastered.

Yes, I do feel like a handicap, happy? I have a genuine fear of speed. Calling me a handicap doesn’t make me feel better, or make me want to jump behind the wheels. It only makes me feel like not answering your phone the next time you call me.

Yes I have a genuine fear of controlling anything that moves faster than 5 miles per hour. If I can willingly commute in buses for 3 hours everyday, my fear must be real, right?

Yes, I fear it because I feel like being in control of a toy that can actually hurt or kill people if I make mistakes. Including myself.

And so goes the conversation between my well wishers and me. Yes I know learning to drive doesn’t take more than a few weeks, and there are millions who do it. I know people mean well. But shock treatment, wisdom and pushing me doesn’t help. What’s in a car, I wish I could fly planes. It’s just that I don’t think I am ready for it yet.