Saturday, July 01, 2006

0 0 1/7 ---- Licenced to drive.

A lot of you might be valid licence holders and may find this description of my experience in getting a licence a bit of a bore but please put up with me as I have absolutely nothing else to tell you about, but want to keep this blog active. The day began with me going off to my last driving class at six in the morning, which happens to be mid-night by my standards. I managed to make the car buck around and my instructor repeatedly slapped his head and progressively became more and more morose. Vinod drove well and we went home. We had planned to meet at the railway station at quarter to eight which I was late for by nearly twenty minutes (as usual).

We reached the venue a crowded train and a costly auto trip later and found we were just on time. The instructors and us all went off to the ground were you have to demonstrate your ability in tracing the legedary eight on the ground using a 100cc vehicle all the while performing acrobatics with one of your hands. It was here that Vinod found out that instead of filling his form out for both the Motor-Cycle and Car categories, the driving school had screwed up and had filled out for only one. (We were not allowed to fill them out. We only put our signature on it). He was positively furious and became extremely quiet as he usually does at such times. He was told he could take his licence the next week.

I however had the go-ahead and went and perched myself near the driving school's battered Kinetic Honda. The candidates were called upon one by one and all of them managed to trace the figure of eight. Some of them of course placed their feet on the ground, and were told to get lost by the instructors. Others made spectacular crashes and got lost by themselves. I managed to trace the requisite eight alright and was later told I had passed. Next, it was time to do the car test.

Our driving school had two cars, a Maruti 800 and an Indica. There was one other driving school which had two different cars and seventeen candidates, who were accommodated in a Maruti Omni van. The inspector would sit in the car and the guys who wanted a licence would one by one drive the car and try and tolerate the jibes of the inspector as well as they could. Some drove well, some not so well and others terribly. The guy who took the test before me managed to get the car to go off after a tremendous jerk that had a nearby goatherd running for life. Second time around he nearly hit a passing old woman who of course was irresolutely unperturbed. Another guy drove real slow and beautiful -in the fast lane. Both were unceremoniously disqualified. When it was my turn to drive, I released the clutch, the car started off smooth as a baby's bottom and I was the picture of the perfect driver, much to my own surprise. The instructor did not say a single word, which was loads of praise coming from him. We then thought we'd head back to the RTO office, but he asked our instructor to drive into the airport.

As we entered the airport, each security guard was silenced with a single word, "RTO", and we were allowed to pass without much ado. Pretty soon our instructor was happily basking in reflected glory and would say "RTO" at every Tom, Dick and Harry who'd care to look at us. The inspector asked our instructor to drive in the wrong way through a gate and block a luxury bus. I tell you this stuff seemed to be a scene straight out of a Vijaykant movie. Our instructor was a straight impression of Vijaykant while I was trying to keep my face straight. Our instructor honked at the bus and the guy inside got out. He walked over to our inspector's side and handed him a paper. Our inspector looked at it and asked him where he'd be in three days time. To this he said he'd be in the interior of Kerala. Our inspector looked at him quizzically and something to the effect that the long arm of the law would catch up with him yet. The guy in question smiled a "catch me if you can" smile and sauntered off. Our inspector grinned a weary grin and told our over-eager driver to head back. We returned and needed to have our photos taken. We waited in the stinking corridors and by the time I had my photo taken I was sweating like a pig. A wait of two hours later the licences were distributed stapled to the original application form and we were to sign it. Typically my address was wrong. I went and asked them to correct it in three places. Another hour later it came back -with only one change. Too disgusted with the whole situation, I decided enough was enough. I signed it and gave it back for counter-signature. I did not give the lady-clerk a flying kiss as my instructor told me to. I am not mad. I whoozed out back into the corridor and my instructor asked me if I'd given her a flying kiss. I told him she refused to accept it from me and would only accept it from him. He guffawed and drowned out my good-byes.

Walking back to the railway station alone (Vinod had long since left) I decided the whole system was as inefficient as it could get and spent a few moments happily abusing the government of India in general. I decided to take a drink, paid for it, but forgot to take the change. I walked ahead a few steps and then came running back for it. The store owner gave me a grin and I made a complicated wave of my hand that would most definetly have cleared things up and got the change. This was totally uncharacteristic of me and was the clincher. The whole day had gone rotten. Heck, watch-out people, I'm coming to terrify you on the road.

Yours traffically,