I was in college.
Never even rode a scooty my entire life. But I was determined to get my driving license as soon as I turn 18. And so I did. I joined the driving school, prepped for it quite thoroughly and got my license. Hurray!
Ok, a confession before I proceed further — driving was, has and will be challenging for me.
My mind (and I might not be completely wrong in generalizing here) is not wired to understand the various aspects of driving at once.
Getting a license in India doesn’t qualify you as a driver. So after I got my license, I took multiple driving lessons to the extent that my father almost hired a personal driver and we used to practice for almost 1–2 hours each day for months. No kidding.
I finally thought I have learned it. I knew how to control the vehicle. I understood the Traffic signals and I understood how to manoeuvre my way in extreme traffic conditions. So I drove in my suburb independently and was excited about almost having learned it.
The night of a terrible accident
One day, a cousin visited us at home for dinner and I offered to drop her back to her place which was a nice 6–7 km drive. I was a little nervous as I had an added responsibility. I drove pretty well.
While returning though, I met with a terrible accident that changed ‘driving’ and my life completely.
Here’s what happened. I took a left turn after a green signal and was driving at 40 km/s hour — so not that fast, but before I could realize I was getting sandwiched between a bus on one side and an autorickshaw (a three-wheeler used in India for public transport) on the other.
And instead of braking, I just maintained my speed underestimating the space I had for my car to pass through. The left window was fully shattered and the left door was completely smashed.
However, I was safe and nothing happened to me as I was on the right side of the car (In India we drive on the left side of the road) except that I was in deep shock.
Don’t know how I got the courage to keep driving but I am glad that I didn’t stop. I continued driving. I drove back home with a shattered window pane and a broken door. My hands were trembling and heart was pounding but I kept driving.
I was shocked. All emotions were running high. I parked the car in our apartment parking. My biggest fear now was how do I break this news to my family and my Dad.
I composed myself and went home.
I narrated the whole story. They got worried for me but they were calm. My Dad didn’t say a word about the damage to the car or my driving abilities.
He sent the car for repairs and also claimed insurance. So we didn’t bear any big loss financially. However, what I didn’t realize was what I actually lost. I lost the confidence to drive again. I lost the passion that I had to have my own vehicle. I lost the experience, fun, and independence that driving gave me.
It’s been over a decade since that incident took place and I haven’t owned my car or driven with ease.
When the car went for repairs it took 2 months to come back and I was a bit apprehensive to get back in the driver’s seat.
My parents were equally anxious. So it never happened.
Then I moved cities and I didn’t own a car for the next 5 years until after marriage when my husband got a car.
He still doesn’t believe when I tell him I have driven in my teens. He isn’t a misogynist like other men who ridicule women for bad driving. He just doesn’t have confidence in my driving abilities.
And I don’t blame him because I have made blunders every time I tried. And they weren’t mistakes but blunders — because my poor driving can become too risky for everyone on the road. So I understand him not allowing me.
It’s not because I am ‘not trainable.’ It’s just because I am not confident. My driving isn’t risky because I drive fast, it’s risky because I drive slow (really slow) and that puts me in difficult situations where my decision-making skills are tested far too often.
But I wish I never gave up after that accident. I wish I continued learning in a safe environment.
I might have taken longer than others to pick up driving intuitively but at least I wouldn’t have lost a decade.
What I learned from this episode
When you fail at any stage of your life, it’s not about how you got there and why you failed. It’s all about how you rise back up each time you fail. A lesson I learned the hard way.
If you are curious about my driving ambitions, my plan now is to pursue driving again until I learn it properly and not give up no matter how many times I fail.
And not just driving, I want to use this learning in all walks of life.
Every time you fail, rise back up instantly.
The more time you spend in getting back up, the harder it becomes.
When you persist through challenging times, you overcome the fear of falling down.