My wife wants a driver despite me driving safely through Bengaluru’s lanes where men balanced on scooters, cows thought they were queens and a deaf dog owned the road.
She does not wish to go through a stressful morning every day trying to get a night person like me to drive her to school.
For some reason schools in Asia and the Arab World start at a ridiculous early hour, with the school kids and moms getting up much before the sun rises, to wait sleepily on the pavements for the buses to arrive.
Studies have shown and health experts have warned that teens are being sleep-deprived by the unreasonable early hours the schools start and have suggested 8.30 am as ideal time for elementary schools and 9.30 am for secondary schools.
Meanwhile, I have spent years working through the quiet and stress-free nights and find getting up early to drop my wife to school an agonising way to start the day, while manoeuvring half-awake between huge canary-yellow school buses and mothers in tiny Maruti Swifts.
After checking around with her relatives and colleagues my wife found someone who knows a couple of drivers around Bengaluru.
The job applicants were asked to give us a test drive and I was tasked with gauging their expertise while sitting in the front seat, mainly because I am thought of as a safe driver after having driven the family safely through some of the most treacherous roads in the world.
When I landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, many years ago, a friend drove me through an empty, unending, dusty, desert road and every few metres there were expensive American, European and Japanese vehicles, mangled into shapes beyond belief, all along the side of the highway.
I had heard that many expatriates drove on these highways thinking that after driving in India with the crazy chaos on the roads, that they can drive anywhere, and eventually find they are flying off into the great highway in the sky.
I visited a government hospital especially for trauma and traffic accident victims, and a surgeon explained how fragile a human body is when travelling in a car, even at normal speeds. “A crash occurring at 30 mph (48kmph) is like being pushed off a three-story building (a 30-foot fall). If you are not belted up you cause extensive damage also to co-passengers (by colliding with them),” he said.
I bought a car from one of our pagemakers and he wanted to introduce me to his Saudi landlord. So, we drove up to his house and when it was time to leave, I reversed into the landlord’s car and I am sure he must have raised my colleague’s rent after that visit.
One driver we called for a test drive said a silent prayer and touched the steering wheel with the tips of his fingers before setting off. The first obstacle was our underground parking. We have to drive between what seems like hundreds of pillars and an upward ramp that suddenly swerves.
It has of course, been scratched badly on the side by the tenants, most probably driving their wives and kids early morning to school.
Another driver, a young man, told us proudly that he has been driving since he was 16 and had recently got his driving licence. “You must be a brave person, “my wife said, and he replied that he was the driver of a VIP and no policeman ever stopped the car.
None of the drivers signalled when changing lanes and honked angrily at anyone that came in front of them. It was like sitting in a cab in Dubai, only that everyone there does their thing silently, without touching the horn, while sailing at speeds of 130 kmph.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi