Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When the student is ready, the teacher panics

Scientists say- and we all know- that driving a car requires extraordinary coordination of all the senses, along with an ability to exercise judgement instantaneously. It is a perfect example of multi-tasking.

Driving a car on Indian roads requires you to not only coordinate all your senses, but to possess a 360-degree vision and be equipped with a well-honed jungle instinct. As a famous email that did the rounds some years back explained, “Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best and leave the results to your insurance company.”

Among the tips it provided:

- Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality.

- Most drivers don't drive, but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction. Don't you get discouraged or underestimate yourself. Except for a belief in reincarnation, the other drivers are not in any better position.

- Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

- Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts) or just to mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.

And, a few more such stereotypes, all true.

Yet, I have managed to drive my car for many years, with characteristic humility and hardly flaunting the fact that I was a multi-tasking wizard.

But, this self-confidence has taken a beating recently when I started to provide driving lessons to my daughter. I am completely shaken now.

How do you instil in her the need to stick to rules, yet explain to her to be alert as nobody else would be following rules of any kind? How do you teach her that she needs to switch on the indicator while turning, yet tell her to be wary as no driver in front would ever bother to have the indicator on?

How do you instruct her to keep swinging her neck in all 28 directions, as pedestrians could materialise out of thin air, cyclists could pedal their way from nowhere with just a slight movement of the left bum, the bus could stop anywhere, an auto rickshaw could approach her menacingly on the wrong lane, a dog might want to cross the road at a crucial moment, presumably to get to the other side, the puddle a few feet ahead of her could actually be and most certainly will be a huge pothole and that a one-way lane means one-way from both directions?

I don’t think these can be taught. I will try the Spartan method and simply ask her to take the car out and start driving.

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