Dubai: In an age when we are moving towards driverless cars, it is perhaps irrelevant to talk about my inability to drive. It may be a while before we get there. But I am tempted to lend voice to the argument to explain why I don’t hit the road from behind the steering wheel.
Wait a minute. I have other reasons to justify myself. But before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify.
I did drive once upon a time.
I obtained my first - and only - driving licence in the early 1990s in a city as congested as New Delhi in India. I lived in a residential community, better known for its vibrant market and the traffic that came with it. It was a daily struggle as I navigated my way through its peak hour bottlenecks and pass through equally gridlocked neighbourhoods to reach my office. It was a 16km route that took me a good 50-60 minutes as my Maruti 800 trundled along in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
When mum drove us to school
I must confess I learnt driving relatively late in life. Sometimes, I wonder why, considering my mother was credited with being the first woman to own and ride a Lambretta scooter in Bangalore of South India during the 1950s. Ahead of her times, she had been quick to cash in on the then novel two-wheeler design, which unlike motorcycles, had a protection shield in front and a pass-through leg area geared towards women like her.
She was one of the few women in her realm who drove a car too – initially, a compact Standard Ten by the British Standard Motor Company and by the time I went to school, a peach Premier Padmini saloon. The distinction set my sister and me apart as we were the only ones whose mum drove us to school at the time.
A well-respected novelist and newscaster, my mother had an aura about her as a motorist too. She would break into a musical almost as her deft fingers would play on the horn button at the centre of the steering, her parp-parp-parp-a-parp announcing her grand arrival wherever she went.
Forgive me for the ramble. Nostalgia, you will agree, has many diversions.
But back to the point, let me explain why I don’t drive.
Dubai has the world's safest roads and swankiest cars
By any yardstick, a motorist’s transition from Delhi to Dubai, which perhaps has the world's safest roads and swankiest cars, should have been a breeze. Not so in my case. And not least because I took a litany of driving tests and flunked them. I just didn’t get down to joining a driving school in the first place.
Contrary to what many believe, the driver’s seat doesn’t necessarily define freedom.
Think about it. When you are not driving, you can do so much more with yourself than when you are behind the wheel. To begin with, you can feel like a Queen – or King if you like – when you are chauffeured around; you can explore and soak in the stunning sights around you - in a city like Dubai, there’s always something new vying for your attention; and if your commute is long enough, you can work on your laptop, catch up on your calls and messages, read a book or even doze off.
There are other perks as well. Your inability to drive gives your family the perfect excuse to show you some love by taking you the extra mile; if you hire a driver, you’ll generate a much-needed job; if you hail a taxi or take the Metro, you’ll give back to the economy. And if you choose to walk, you’ll do yourself some precious good.
When you don’t drive, it doesn’t matter how heavy the traffic is or how long you are stuck in a jam. You don’t have to be on your guard, gauge fellow motorist moves or get your throttle-and-brake act right all the time. You don’t have to spot-strategise to avoid a manic driver or shudder at the prospect of a collision every time a car flies past you.
Did I just say ‘shudder’? Well, the cat is out of the bag.
After all that reasoning, I might as well admit it: Fear, my friend, is now an unsurmountable roadblock to my driving.