Recently when we drove to Cornwall in the older one’s car for a holiday, the L&M kept ‘driving’ from the passenger side and the older Brat cried, ‘Oh, no! I forgot to put in the steering wheel!’
Did you think he had become crazy? How could he be driving without one, you ask? Well, you should read this post — which I am re-posting for the benefit of those of my readers who might have missed it, right till the end. You will realise then that old habits die hard.
It was also the first ever L&M post on Cybernag.
The L&M is paranoid about city roads. He is scared of speed – not the dopey kind, but real speed. He is famous for making auto drivers brake suddenly as he clutched his heart dramatically with an appropriate moan, if they drove too fast. He never got drivers because he wouldn’t let them drive above 40 – kms that is. They quit in a day in disgust even foregoing their pay. He is so scared of the traffic accidents that he has avoided two wheelers all his life. According to him, it is safer to drive a four-wheeler since the engine takes the impact in a head-on collision. Oh yes. He has a graphic imagination when it comes to road accidents!
He bought the boys tricycles and then bicycles at appropriate ages. Only, he expected them to ride the bicycles like they did the tricycles — in our lane or preferably on the terrace.
Even that was ok. But when the elder one went to college and demanded a bike, the L&M like a doting father that he is, bought him one. However, the trouble was that he was expected to adhere to the same rule that had applied to the tri and bicycles. But being practical (since a bike could not be ridden on the terrace), he had allowed the boy to ride in the JNU campus near our house.
“I must positively be the only boy in the whole universe who can’t ride his bike on proper roads!” complained the boy. When he was allowed to take it out on the city roads, he had to give a written statement attested by two witnesses that (a) he wouldn’t take it out on roads where buses and trucks plied, (b) wouldn’t carry a pillion rider (c) would inform us where he would be going (d) call home to inform about his whereabouts every 15 minutes and (e) return home before it got dark.
Do you blame the boy for leaving the bike untouched till he left for his college outside Delhi?
When the L&M drives the car, he is so careful that he is never likely to get a ticket for speeding — he might most likely get one for SLOW driving. And this habit has only got worse with age.
The boys refused to ride in the car when he was driving. “It is embarrassing to be overtaken by the pedestrians,” they said.
One day as we were going out, the boys didn’t get in the car. “We will follow you,” the elder one said.
“No bikes!” warned their father instantly alert.
“Oh, perish the thought! How can I possibly take it out when we have to go outside the colony?” asked my first born, voice dripping sarcasm.
It was completely lost on the L&M. “Then how do you intend ‘following’?”
“We’ll walk with you. Just keep the windows rolled down so that we can chat,” he continued.
“We’ll try to walk slowly to keep pace,” added the younger one, for good measure.
The father glared. I meekly got in. Hadn’t I married him for worse or worst?
If L&M is paranoid about driving on the city roads, he is a nervous wreck while trying to park the car. You would understand his difficulty if you realised that he needs a space big enough to park two trucks and then some. For him, parking is a family activity and now that the brats have left, I do the duty.
You will get an idea if you picture this scene:
The moment we approach our destination, all of us crane our necks from our respective windows to spot a suitable parking space.
“Dad! There was a space back there!” the younger one shouts.
“No. That was too narrow,” L&M snaps, sweat dotting his brows and knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel too hard.
“There! Another one!”
“No, and No!” L&M bares his teeth.
We would go round the block half a dozen times and manage to find a suitable space as detailed above. And now we had to ‘guide’ him into the slot — one to each side, as he maneuvered the vehicle gingerly back and forth. By this time the boys are having a tough time trying to keep the ever-lengthening line of cars on either side at bay. The whole place sounds like one big fire alarm, with the cars honking for all they are worth.
A few more tries later, the L&M finally manages to scrape in between two cars. “There! Wasn’t that neat?” he proudly asks, getting down triumphantly. A traffic cop has come to investigate the chaos by now.
I am unable to reply the L&M because the door on the passenger side wouldn’t open more than a few inches and I have to squeeze out from the driver’s side.
There are times when he manages to park at a spot suspiciously free of other cars. “Wonder why none of you guys spotted this place!” he would say smugly.
“‘Co’s this is a ‘no parking’ zone that is why,” his younger son would reply calmly.
We consider ourselves very lucky if we find a parking space within half a kilometre of our destination. “I think we should walk all the way from home instead of just half the way. At least that way we’d be spared the parking drama,” says the elder one in all seriousness. “It would also give us some exercise and reduce the pollution from at least one car,” the younger one puts in his tuppence’ worth.
To be fair, he is a completely different person while on a highway — relaxed and humming. But never did he go beyond 70 kmph. And so relaxed in fact that he sometimes begins snoring softly, eyes wide open. I am tense as a wound up toy while on a highway with him and keep him talking. He has never accepted that he had dozed off though!
But thanks to all these safety measures by their dad while they were young, both the boys have turned out into excellent and safe drivers. However, they have to contend with an ageing father who continues to hound them if they so much as accelerated a bit. He keeps his eyes fixed on the speedometer. Even if he is sitting at the back, he would crane his neck and surreptitiously glance at the needle inching upward and would say, ‘Hey, slow down! You are crossing 80 (km)!’ The boys just cover the speedometer, but that only makes their father even more tense, trying to guess the speed!
When the older one had begun driving (after attaining the legal age for driving of course!), he had to swear a solemn oath to abide by certain conditions every time he took the car out — one of them being that the L&M rides with him — and does passenger-seat-driving (since he would insist on sitting in the front).
The boy had had the last word on this one. “When I buy my own car, I am going to install a set of dummy controls and steering wheel for dad to ‘drive’ from the back seat.”
…and now read the opening lines again 🙂