Saturday, June 20, 2015

Strong impression from driving a car

During my childhood, our family often used to go to Nanjangud [24 kms.] to visit the temple. I used to accompany my grandmother by train.  But on special occasions, when my grandfather also came, we sometimes went in a taxi driven by one Khallaq.  He was a favourite of my grandfather, very decent and an acquaintance of his very old client Salar Masood Sahib.  His car was 'Landmaster'. Taxis in those days were black and yellow.  His taxi had the 'license' number painted on the door '77'.

Click on this picture [my crude paint-work] to see '77' and also others to get a larger view.

I was fond of sitting in the front seat to keenly watch everything Khallaq did, from the way he started the engine, the way he used the legs to operate the levers, the style he held the steering wheel, the manner he negotiated curves and vehicles coming from the opposite direction, and the judgment when he overtook a slower vehicle and so on.  Besides the gear lever, and the horn button, it was the speedometer I loved to watch.  It was 'm.p.h.' in those days.  Looking outside as the car was on the move, I used to observe and follow the milestones we passed and the electric power lines on which birds perched and flew off and then fly with the speed of the car! Traffic was very sparse in those days in the 1960s. Watching Khallaq drive was a pleasure and sometimes I used to imagine myself as Khallaq!

Many do not know that I was a wonderful bus driver.... when I was just about 8 or 10 years old!  None could turn the bus like me and no bus made the sound like mine. Brrrrrrrr, brrrr and then also musically idle the engine ... brr..... brr.... brr......brrr. It had a lovely horn also... I cannot spell the sound effectively. It was something like this "peepeeenpee" Notice the 'n' for the nasal sound! I drove the bus at 50 miles an hour. How could a boy as young as 10 drive a bus? Yes it was real, very very real, in my imagination... I used to run fast with an imaginary steering wheel and tilt the head in the direction I turned my 'bus' and the face indicated the speed! What pleasure! What joy! I went to my neighbourhood friends' houses in my own bus when I did not take my bicycle tyre! 

I had also seen my uncle Kitti own a second hand car, may be an Austin, in the year 1964 or so. I think it had a registration plate "MYM 828". He had bought it for a very hefty one thousand rupees, but he spent double that for repairs and finally he sold it for peanuts, unable to cope with the expenses. It appears that the seller had cheated my uncle with a troublesome car.  He used to take me for a small round after he returned from work. He used to park it in the neighbour Ursu's compound as our house did not have a wide gate or space inside.  I looked at Kitti in awe how he drove!
Kitti's car was something like this:

In 2010, my toy car driving got elevated to practical reality, when a Hyundai i10 arrived.

This required new set of muscles and new brain cells to come together to actually drive, which I found entirely different to my bus driving!

None of us had learnt to drive when the car arrived.  My friend Krishnaswamy, an expert car mechanic helped me bring the car home from the showroom. We could attend the driving classes only after one month.  But in this one month, there was a very strong impression

Fiddling with new things has been my second nature.  The car was parked like this. 

I had known the gear operations, theoritically.  The fiddling itch got the better of me one morning.  I started the engine fine, like Khallaq did. Joy!  Then engaged the reverse gear and slowly released the brake.  Lo, I was driving!  Took the car properly out about 20 feet back towards the gate, safely.  

Now to see how 'I drove the car forward' to park it back in position, I correctly came to gear one, but I could feel the nervousness of this new experience, of a new type of brain-muscle coordination. Very weird it was. My scooter of 22 years was autogear with hand brakes.  So the leg muscles were not needed.  Now for the car, they are most important.  

I released the brake slowly and the car moved forward.  I was not sure in which direction I had slightly turned the steering wheel, which was not necessary.  I wanted to stop the car as it approached the parking spot.  Instead of my foot landing on the brake lever, it had involuntarily gone to the throttle.  Like a rocket it raced the remaining 5 or 6 feet and CRRAASHHH.  I did not know what had happened in those few moments!  Suddenly, that stone bench had entered the car!  
Very impressive, very very impressive. This is the impression:

[Pictured after I pulled the part out, but I knew there was some real damage]

So our car's first outing was to the garage for repairs.  The impression was so strong that the stone bench had snapped the fan belt.  Miraculously the engine had escaped unscathed.  Through another friend, I got a mechanic, Kausar.  He came home to evaluate the extent of damage and took [drove] it for repair. 

I was to learn later this happens with beginners.

He had completely removed the 'impression' from the car, but 'impression moments' remain in my mind.  A few weeks after the stone bench went into the car, we managed to attend driving classes and got our driving licenses.  

Somu taught all four of us, very nicely.

I recalled a somewhat similar incident, many years before. My senior colleague Shetty who rode his geared scooter with a foot brake for 25 years had changed to a new scooter similar to mine.  One day he came to work with plasters and bandages.  He said "I was searching for the foot brake".

Our car came with this "Caring for you ... always" slogan. 

The 'impressive incident' continued to haunt from the back of the mind, 'what if it happens in traffic?'. I know, the more I practice driving, the better the new set of muscles involved for driving a car will learn and help regain confidence.  The better half is better at it and so I have become a side-seat driver. 


Achyutha RN said...

OhI well it happens to many. But the 'impressions ' are different !! Don't be side seat driver , it is time to exchange your seat with your better half !! :-)
All the best.
Achyutha RN

SPGR. said...

Nice post. I liked the car toy car driving photo in particular.