Being Women

Learning To Drive: A Step Towards Freedom

Learning to drive is no mean feat! Aditi tells us the why's and how's behind it.

The cool wind, heavy with the fragrance of petrichor, caressed her face and hair. Gradually, they eased her furrowed brows, and she forgot a million thoughts of managing home, child, and work that usually consumed her mind space. For a while, she was on her own—alive and free!

If I wrote a story about myself, these would surely be the opening lines. The mistress of my car and time, the joy and independence that driving gives me, are immeasurable.

Why I learned to drive

I learned to drive quite late in life, and my strongest motivation was my kid. I felt helpless seeing him miss out on activities because Papa was busy or cabs weren’t available. It was a risk handling an extremely active toddler and booking and coordinating cabs on the road. Bangalore’s unpredicted showers added to the woes. If it rains, all hell breaks loose with water-logged roads, awful traffic, and the complete non-availability of cabs. Once, my newly bought dress got spoilt as I got completely drenched hailing auto after auto as they kept refusing to go to my address!

I learned to drive sometime back through an agency and practised within my locality. However, I wasn’t able to overcome my fear and venture out alone. The practice sessions were not regular due to my hubby being busy, and my progress was negligible.

Learning to drive with my father

Then my parents came for a vacation, and Bapi (my father) started accompanying me daily. With each day, the distance increased and my fears diminished. He gave me the right push without being condescending. First confidence, then traffic, then parking—my impediments got addressed one by one. Giving me helpful tips, he kept stressing the dos and don’ts. Within a week, I was driving around town, albeit timidly.

The memorable first drive

On the auspicious occasion of Jagannath Deb’s Snana Purnima I took Ma, Bapi, and my little one on a long drive. We stopped at a roadside shanty for hot tea and onion samosas, and I cannot describe the happiness and pride that glowed on my parent’s faces. This had been our longtime dream. Since then, I have been dropping my son off at school, running errands, and taking parents for health checkups.

I have always been outdoorsy, but my wings were adjusted to fit the vagaries or harassment of the public transport system. My husband is a workaholic, for whom even short outings are undesirable. Even to visit an ice cream parlour, I had to time my request to match his benevolent mood, agree that it wouldn’t cross the stipulated time, and promise that I would not make any pit stops (something as trivial as picking up mangoes because he preferred ordering online!)

My car- a world on its own

While staying in Bangalore, I missed many of my native vegetables. Though many of them were available at a distant market, visiting it was like a bi-annual affair after repeated requests from my husband. But now my kitchen is stocked with spiny gourds (Kakrol), gondhoraj lebu (sandalwood lemon), or Queen Hilsa!

Inside the car, it was my own little world. The boot held paraphernalia from alteration clothes to book lists. The soothing musk fragrance was one I had picked up from the Pondicherry Aurobindo Ashram. The gold-rimmed picture of Ma Kali smiled back from the dashboard as I embarked on a trip. I had meticulously stored a soft blanket and Mickey Mouse pillow for my boy, water bottles, wet wipes, an extra pair of sandals, cotton grocery bags, hand cream, and lip gloss for myself. Hubby helped me with a tiny dustbin, mobile phone charger, and phone holder to follow maps while driving.

I drive at my own pace. Even if I am late, I do not press the accelerator unnecessarily. I also don’t forget how it was crossing the road amidst fast-moving traffic, especially with elderly parents or kids, and I always slowed down for them.

Marching up the steps of confidence

I have now overcome the initial nervousness. Once, I found myself on the front line of a traffic signal and felt like a front-line soldier facing the enemy! Being a long signal, I put the car in neutral. As it went green, I forgot to change the mode. The car refused to move, impatient drivers honked incessantly, and I sweated in panic. Finally, I realised my mistake.

I have also not faced any jeering because I am a female driver. In fact, in some tight situations, seeing me behind the wheel with the L Board, men have come forward to guide me smilingly through the traffic.

My cherished me-time

This is also my cherished me-time. At home, I can hardly relax. There’s always some emergency demanding my immediate attention. Inside the cool cocoon of my car, I can gather my thoughts and strategize for the next client meeting or plan the craft for the kids’ school.

Once, my baby had been eagerly waiting to attend his best friend’s grand birthday party. I was two weeks into driving and too scared to risk navigating that unruly traffic, which worsened in the rain. Involuntarily, I tried booking an Ola, but unsuccessfully.

One look at my little boy in his favourite tiger-printed shirt, clutching dearly the gift for his friend, was enough to thwart all my fears. I grabbed my keys and prayed to God for a safe journey. It was difficult; I even forgot how to operate the rear wipers, couldn’t always see trucks and two-wheelers approaching through the rain-washed mirrors, and with my heart in my mouth, valiantly moved on. Heaving a sigh of relief, we finally reached the 5-star hotel.

It was a different kind of high when we were gently manoeuvred towards the front porch and gave away the keys for valet parking! I glowed with confidence and contentment as little Ira ran and enveloped her bestie in warm hugs. A few of the moms who were dependent on cabs couldn’t make it to the party.

This remains one of my favourite memories: learning to fly with the help of my car!


Learning to drive is no mean feat! Aditi tells us the why’s and how’s behind it.

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