How long does it take to learn to drive a car? A few days, a few weeks or maybe a few months? Sometimes, the answer is years, 15 long ones.
My mother has been trying to learn driving ever since I can remember. The day we bought our first car in 2004, she joined a driving school. Even after she had completed her training in the instructor’s car, she wasn’t allowed to touch our new car, because dad thought she would make the car ‘rickety’ with her novice driving.
After seven years, when the car did get somewhat rickety, she joined a driving school again and began to drive our car, till the day she made dad sit beside her to show him how she drove. Watching her driving, he shook his head, and forbade her to drive.
After many years, she joined another driving school. To drive the car, she used the earlier methodology that she had learnt in previous schools, which conflicted with the views of her instructor. She left it and started to train under another instructor. Her driving did not get the approval of even her fourth instructor. She again quit driving.
Everyone thought she had forgotten about it. But sometimes I would find her watching a car-learning video, animatedly shifting gears and her feet working on an imaginary clutch and brake. Moments like these would convey that her dream remained unfulfilled.
Recently, when dad bought a new car, he handed over the keys of the old one to mom, for her to freely learn driving. But along with it, mom had grown old, too. Her dream, however, was young and kicking. So, mom and I headed straight to a driving school. The car instructor was a woman. After she had heard the whole story, she gave the keys and said, ‘Show me how you drive.’
I nervously watched as she put the first gear, and lo and behold, before I knew, she was driving in the third gear. I wondered how this instructor had taught mother driving so soon, when all others had failed over the years. The instructor answered my unasked question, ‘Sometimes, all a woman needs is just another woman’s pat on her back to get going in this man’s world.’ I remembered how all her previous car instructors were men, and how all of them, including my dad, had the notion that women could never be good drivers. But the men forget that if women can drive the world, they can surely drive a car.
Now when I look at mom driving around fearlessly in the fifth gear, I remember the woman instructor’s words: ‘Don’t let the men in your life scare you away from doing anything.’ And I smile. And when mom’s previous car instructors see her driving with panache, they smile too.
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