Becoming 18 is considered as a psychological landmark in a person’s life. They say , at this age the transition takes place , the boy becomes a man. I was pretty excited to be 18. This became more of a burning desire when I was 17, because I joined school earlier than my friends and all of them were 18 already, blowing their own trumpets with their DLs and Voter IDs . Being 18 has many benefits. You are allowed more things when you attain this age , for example watching certain movies , privilege to vote etc etc. So finally I turned 18 this year 2016.
I decided to obtain my first certificate proving my age, the driving license. My first professional year of college was scheduled to end on 7 th August 2016. We were provided a months’ vacation . This was the ideal time for me to apply for my learner’s license. The whole process and formalities becomes easy if we enroll into any driving agency. Months before my vacation started my mother took time out of her hectic schedule to enquire about the best driving schools in Kochi. So after filtering out all the options , I finally decided to join Surya driving school.
The first step , was to obtain a learners license. The validity of a learners license is 6 months. There was a MCQ test at the collectorate building, which on clearing will one get his learners license. I reached the collectorate building early to avoid waiting in the queue. Gradually people started coming. The test was at 9 and by 8:45 a huge crowd had gathered there. Some people were coolly sitting on the staircase, whereas some were strolling back and forth revising the booklets provided to them by their respective agencies. Before the test we were required to show all our id proofs like birth certificate, SSLC certificate, Aadhar card, passport etc to the police officer sitting at the counter. The test began at sharp nine . As there were only four computers , only four at a time were allowed inside. Once you clear the test the computer automatically shows a message ” CONGRATULATIONS ! YOU HAVE CLEARED THE TEST “ .Instantly the computer at the police officer’s counter will print our learners license and the officer seals the document.
The sticker on my learners license showed the date – October 3 2016 , indicating the date of my driving test. Soon my classes resumed. Madam taught us in an old Maruti alto. The most trickiest pedal of all is the clutch. You do it wrong with the clutch , the engine switches off and the car comes to a sudden halt. Mam used to scream on my face in Malayalam when I made blunders in the middle of the road. I still loved going for driving classes, not just because of my interest in learning driving , because I used to meet a variety of people of different age groups who also came to learn driving. There were people ranging from a teenager who just entered final year of school to old people who are charting out there retirement plans. It was fun to talk to them sharing different stories of our lives with each other. Even my madam shared her stories and experiences with me. Rarely we find people who are committed to their job and who work hard at whatever they do. She was different , extremely dedicated to her job. She wakes up daily at 5 , starts taking classes from 5:30 onward till 7:30. Then she rushes back home to get her kids ready for school.
the abc of driving…accelerator, brake and the clutch
My dad also taught me in his Ford Fiesta , a 6 yr old car with power steering. It feels totally different when I drive in different cars. It takes some time to adapt switching cars. For most part of the vacation my dad taught me in his Fiesta. He took me to different locations and exposed me to different scenarios like uphill driving , driving at night etc . He used to scream too when I made blunders. Once in a busy main road , I attempted a U-turn. I did the clutch wrong , the car came to a sudden halt . I tried ignition again , I did the clutch wrong and the engine went off. I tensed up not knowing where I was going wrong , and to add to all the chaos were the honking of the cars around. I basically created havoc in middle of the road and the busy moving traffic came to a halt . My father got furious and in middle of the road , we switched places. He then maneuvered the car skilfully out of the jam. I used to learn more in the daily night rides with my Papa than what I learnt in my driving school. The driving lessons in my school were divided into two parts- on road classes and inside the classes, both of which were included in the license test scheduled for the next month. I also took additional classes for learning a two wheeler geared vehicle. The fee was 100 rupee per class where I used to practice my 8 in a bike which was in a dilapidated state. I still remember practicing under the scorching hot sun , beads of sweat rolling down towards my eyes. My eyelids occasionally used to sprinkle drops of sweat on my spectacles worsening the clarity .
practicing the “H” at surya driving grounds
My college was scheduled to reopen soon , so I hurried up the classes asking them to teach 2-3 classes per day. Any days later I reached back home 2 days before my driving test. Before a driving test one must attend a class on “Road rules and safety” which was held at the collectorate and get the seal in the learners license. So I went , expecting it to be some half an hour class. But it turned out to be a 3 and a half hour misery. A traffic police officer came and spoke everything else apart from road safety. The next day we had trials on the ground where the test was to be conducted. People from different driving schools arrived along with their instructors to practice. If one fails the test , he or she would be given another date for a repeat test. For the locals it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was one for me. I was studying in Mysore , so I would have to cancel classes and miss my hospital postings and come for the re test. Hence I wanted to clear the test in the very first attempt. So my fellow driving mates and I practiced all afternoon trying to rectify our flaws . All of us after a tiring practice session went to a nearby juice stall and each of us had cold juicy lime sherbets , sitting under the cool shade of the tree. We wished each other the best of luck and left.
And finally the big day arrived.
My instructor took us to the place where the driving test was to be conducted. There was already a big queue, all waiting restlessly with their identification and address documents. At the other end of the queue were two police officers verifying the documents and sipping hot black tea. After a lot of waiting in the queue I stood in the queue for the two wheeler test. If one puts their feet down or hits the pole, or if the vehicle goes off, he or she fails the test. The sun was burning hot and one lady waiting in the queue fainted due to the heat. We made her comfortable in an auto rickshaw nearby and provided her with water. My turn came at last. Thanks to God, this scooter was in a good state, unlike the one at my driving school. I did it at last. Though during the 8 I almost lost balance, I somehow managed to keep myself up without setting foot on ground.
I went to the queue for the H test. Majority of the people there came for the re test and only few like me were first timers. I was waiting there patiently in the queue watching the contestants do their H test. Most of them were doing the H perfectly and flawlessly. There were a few though who did blunders. For instance there was this man who had total confusion in turning the steering wheel while reversing and almost hit the inspecting police officer standing beside the H. “Padmanabhan !! ” the police officer yelled out in impatience. It was my turn. I sat in the car. All the instructions my instructor gave me appeared before my mind. Reversing the car was the toughest part. During the practice session, he had drawn a crease on the ground, instructing me to start turning the steering wheel when the back wheel of my car reached that line. So my test started. I went straight. It was now time to reverse. I looked back and searched for the crease. To my horror I couldn’t find any crease. What was I supposed to do ? I then thought to just go ahead slowly and cautiously, trying my level best to not hit the pole and to not mess up with clutch . And lo! I did it ! I managed to do the H. It was such a huge relief!!!! My instructor congratulated me. My clothes were drenched in sweat . I waited for my fellow friends to finish their test, and we all had drinks in the nearby cool-bar.
All of us were waiting for the final part of the test- the road test. The two wheeler road test was pretty easy. All I had to do was drive the Bajaj M 50 straight, take a u turn, signal “stop” with my right hand, and stop. I cleared that with ease and so did my fellow mates. Our instructor took us to the main highway in his car where the road test for car was taking place. My turn came. The police officer sat in the front seat . All I had to do was to drive the car straight, take a U turn and stop whenever the officer tells me to. This is where they check how good we are with the clutch, how we manage to stop in an uphill region and start it back without having the car go backwards and how we maneuver the car through the moving traffic. It was going on well, then suddenly I realized that I didn’t wear my seat belt. I didn’t know whether the officer noticed or not. I was confused whether to stop the car and put my seat-belt on or continue without stopping. If the police officer didn’t notice and If I had stopped to wear the seat belt, he might notice it then. So I decided to continue without stopping. After the test, the police officer just left the car without saying a word. I didn’t know whether I had cleared or not. I didn’t want to fail at any cost. Our instructor took us back to where we had the H test. He told us to have lunch, while he tried to find out whether we have cleared or not. I had a small snack in a nearby bakery. After half an hour the instructor came back and told us that we cleared the road test. Aaaahhh !!!!
What a day it was ! Pheww!! I finally got my license. That evening I came to collect my license. I ran my fingers over the license. Felt it. Smelled it. Getting a license might not have been a big deal for others, but it meant a big enough deal for me. I immediately took a bus back home. My parents were there already, waiting for me at the dining table with a small pastry cake to celebrate my achievement.
It was a memorable event in my life to cherish forever. The travails I had to undergo during this transition from a carefree boy to a responsible driver; a man; was something I shall forever relish recounting again and again.