This post is an ode to the man I owe my independence in locomotion. The man who helped me slay yet another ghost in my head. This is a long pending post. A swaggering 3 and a half years. Better late than never don’t they say?
I think of this guy almost every day for the past few years, thank him in my heart, say a bless you in my head, and start my day. ( BTW J knows about this guy in my life :-) :-) :-) ). Car driving is one of the most rewarding learning of my life and the freedom to move around, without depending on anyone is almost a miracle.
I got to know about Mohan Master ( that’s how he likes to be called and makes it clear) through a friend, who said he specializes in teaching women to drive. That was bang on my need at that point in time.
Thus starts my tryst with MM sometime in February - March 2014. As promised he arrives at 5.30 am and asks me to start the car. I have difficulty even with that. I wonder how I ended up getting my license in 2009.
MM reassures me. Maddam, ( that’s how he calls me with an emphasis on the syllable D) if you can walk in a city road, I can teach you to drive and I am certain you will be able to. I do not believe him, though I desperately want to.
MM starts with the basic lessons in driving. The actual ABC’s of driving. Accelerator, Brake and Clutch. He tells me to wear shoes without heels and ones that are comfortable, driving without a shoe is a strict no-no. Then a little advanced lesson – how to hold on to the steering. The 9 – 3 position. Both hands on the steering and the hands never crosses over each other. Ever. He says it with a kind of sternness that I would dare not disobey.
The steering should not be held tightly and your hand glides on it. I say Ok Mohan Master, very obediently, our terms have been established.
He takes me to an empty ground and asks me to circle the empty ground in the car. I am able to do it. He asks me to get down and look at the wheel tracks and see if it was a perfect circle. The circle that I thought I actually drove, is an poor oblong longing to be a circle. He gets down from the car and asks me to do that again. I remember being worried about driving without him next to me. He smiles and says, someday you got to drive alone. Second time it was simpler. Same routine – get down and check the tracks. Third time I feel a bit proud of myself.
He tells me to get back in the car. I get back in more confidently. Now he says track the number 8 while driving. My eyes pop out. MM gives a knowing smile and I know I have no option.
The ensuing classes get tougher from circle in the reverse and a number 8 in the reverse, and I have serious doubts if I was actually a retard.
The coffee table topic and the lunch table topics at office is always about my driving classes, those days. My friends pre-empt what MM will make me do in the next class. A circle with the help of just 2 front wheels, maybe? The next would be just the usage of 2 side wheels. Amidst all the laughter I realise I am no good at driving.
But this man does not give up on me. By now we have moved from the empty ground to the real road. The timings are the same. Early morning. Rain or shine, MM will be there at 5.30 am. He speaks dime a dozen, about various topics. His travels around the world, his Vietnam trip, and how he loved China. I wonder silently if this man would stop it, so that I can focus. Made a mental note to myself to stuff my ears with some cotton the next day. He must have seen it cross my mind, he said, Maddam my conversation may irritate you today, but tomorrow when you drive with your friends you will thank me for the invaluable skill that I have taught you. I smile sheepishly at being caught.
MM has another peculiar habit which kind of annoyed me. Imagine me, trying to still figure out how to hold the steering and mind you always in 9 -3 position, manage the co-ordination between my left and right leg in-between figuring out which the A, B and the C are, and to also change gears ( most often I forgot the gear component of driving). And then I got to focus on MM’s gibberish.
It must have been the third or 4th driving class. MM asks me while I was trying to roll the vehicle on a highway, how may brakes does your car have? What the heck, I thought. One brake is what comes to mind. Then I realise there is something called a handbrake, and I feel smarter already. I blurt out two a little too loudly. That’s when he shows me my place. Maddam, you have 5 brakes in the car and I am thinking is this fellow out of his mind?
MM explains : The moment you take your leg off the accelerator, you are slowing the vehicle and that’s a kind of brake, The car horn slows people down on the road, that’s the second one. Applying the clutch is another form of braking. Then the original brake and finally the handbrake. Smart guy isn’t he?. Now for the annoying stuff. Maddam can you repeat whatever I said in the same order please?
And I was like WHAT?
MM continues very calmly, repeat Maddam please. By now I have forgotten the sequence and even the question, remember I am driving.
He won’t relent at anything. Makes sure you say it, the way he wants to hear it, even if it means I got to say it 5 times. Every lesson he teaches including the steering position, gets repeated by me word for word the way he likes it. The lessons advanced from moving up the gears while driving, take U turns on a busy road ( by now the timing changes to 7 to 8 am), reversing the vehicle, where to look while reversing, starting a vehicle using handbrake while you stop on a slope and also Parking the vehicle.
The lessons overwhelm me, but when I realise MM is around, I kind of feel confident to drive.
I especially like his sense of humour. During one of the drives, MM says, Maddam your car has four wheels. I am wondering which lesson he is going to teach me now. Two in the front and two in the back. I quickly think there is one wheel in the boot. MM continues you forget the left wheel in the front of your car. You got to pay attention. Ohhhhhh… that’s the lesson.
By now, if I make a mistake, MM makes me pull over to the side of the road. I felt like a school kid then. I got to tell him what mistake I did and what should have been done instead. And he will not help me with the mistake I did. There were days when I had to pull over at least 3 – 4 times, and MM would be quite unsympathetic while I am actually figuring what went wrong.
So the lessons moved to a national highway where he made me unlearn some things that he initially taught. If need be, you gotta drive with your hand on the gear, so on the highway, he wanted me to hold the gear and the steering with one hand each and my hand should not move out of the gear. The speed should be at 100 km per hour. He would also appropriately motivate saying, Maddam you do so much of stuff that I cannot do, why do you even have these doubts. Trust yourself and go on.
Some of what MM said may sound pretty fleeting, but I realised had very profound sense in them. Once he told me, Maddam why are you looking so tensed when you are driving? If you get tensed your mind will go blank. Keep smiling. You have a nice smile. And that will also help you to think clearly. I realised this guy is talking about what Amy Cuddy, a behavioural scientist speaks about in her TED X talk on how our body language defines the way we think, after decades of research. I consciously smile after hearing that.
Finally I start driving on my own, and the lessons that he made me repeat after him, comes to mind whenever I make a mistake. Maddam do not change the gear while you are overtaking, I hear Mohan master say it in my head, when I do that on road, even today. I smile in gratitude for those lessons.
A couple of weeks back, I parked my car in a an unobtrusive spot and when I come back from shopping, see a pick up truck just behind my car completely blocking my way out. I waited for a while, to see if the driver is around. I saw a guy hovering around the vehicle and checked if he was the driver. He says the driver has gone into the building and will take 30 minutes to come. I tell him that I need to take my vehicle out, and check if he can move the vehicle a little forward. I cant drive, but the truck’s key is in the vehicle we can get someone to move it forward, he says. Couple of men passed us and none one of them knew to drive.
Thats when it dawned on me, what the heck, you can drive Vincy. I got into that fully loaded Yellow TATA 407 pick up truck and with some difficulty started the engine, figured out the first gear and moved it to the place I wanted.
Hurray, Vincy !!! Mohan Master will be proud of you!!!
I wish I remembered to take a selfie :-(