When I tell people that I can’t drive a car or ride a bike, they are surprised. Their eyes betray an odd mix of shock, amusement, disbelief and disapproval as if I told them that I don’t know how to make a phone call. All the questions and observations that follow this statement can be summarised as, “How can an educated woman born and brought up in a city in the 21st century not know how to drive?”
They ask “How can a working woman not ride a scooty or drive a car? How do you travel then? Aren’t buses tiring? Why would you spend so much on autos?” I want to answer them that it is not a legal obligation for everyone above eighteen to drive a vehicle, taking a bus is being environment-friendly and I can choose to spend my money however I want. I don’t want to be rude, so I don’t say this out loud.
They wonder, “What do you mean you’ve never ever ridden a bicycle when you were a kid? Were you never enticed by your friends riding bicycles? Surely, looking at kids your age riding cycles would have made you wish you could ride one as well?” I want to rebuke that I was brought up not to envy others, but I control the urge as I realize they are just curious.
They suggest “You should learn to ride a scooty. Gearless lightweight bikes are suitable for girls and easy to learn. You can be independent only if you know how to drive a vehicle”. I want to say that women do drive geared motorbikes. Also, independence is internal and has to do with the freedom to make one’s own decisions and I’ve decided not to drive. To me, independence is about going places figuratively, not literally.
If they favour cars, they say “You should learn to drive a car. It is much safer. If you ride a scooty badly, you will get hurt. If you drive a car and hit something, only the car will get damaged, nothing will happen to you.” I want to protest, “By your reasoning that I will hit something, what if I hit a person? That would make a car more dangerous than a scooty.” For the sake of politeness, I keep mum.
The point they miss is whether I want to drive a vehicle or not. It is expected that everyone has to drive a vehicle and people do not pause to think that some may not want to. They spontaneously lecture on why I should learn to drive a vehicle, what vehicle would be suitable for me and what model I should buy. It doesn’t always occur to them that not everyone is meant to drive. There are three reasons why I have not learned to drive. The first is my dad. The second is my personality. The third is my clumsiness.
Before you jump into any assumptions, let me state clearly that my dad is not the controlling kind. He is super sweet. I mean it when I say he is the best dad in the world. He always puts me and my needs first. He is the kind of dad who would do anything for his daughter; whatever it takes to bring a smile on my face. I’ve always been given complete freedom to do whatever I want. He leaves all my decisions to me and backs me up no matter what I choose, even if the whole family is against it. Sometimes, I suspect we may have a telepathic connection, because he always knows what I want, when I want it, without me having to tell him. Clearly, my dad is awesome.
Why is he a reason I don’t drive? That is because he is overprotective of me. I will always be daddy’s little girl. He says that if I were to drive in the horrible Chennai traffic, he would get so tensed of my well-being that he would not be able to focus on anything till I reach my destination. Till now, my dad has never asked me of anything. The only thing he has asked me is not to drive. I feel that it is my duty to respect my dad’s sole request and I’m happy to oblige. Also, I love my dad and I do not want him to worry about me. If it gives him peace of mind, then I don’t mind not driving even if it means spending a lot on transportation.
The second reason for not choosing to drive is my personality. Every day, I desperately crave some me-time, when I can daydream or think of ideas related to work. It is hard to carve out time for me during weekdays. When I’m in the office, I’m either thoroughly involved in work or take a break and talk to friends. At home, I rarely get quiet time to ponder. My commute is the only time I get for daydreaming. If I were to drive, I need to be consciously aware of my surroundings. So, I opt to travel by bus or auto and that quiet alone-time recharges me. It is alright if I spend extra on travel and the commute is less convenient because it keeps me fresh and sane. Not driving is a boon in disguise for my introversion and I should thank my dad for this.
The third reason is I doubt if I can drive well. You may call this cowardice. I will call it rational thinking and knowing my weaknesses well and we can agree to disagree. I have never even ridden a bicycle as a kid, remember? Aren’t I a little too old to learn now, especially because I like to live inside my own head? Will I even have road sense since I never paid attention to the world around me? Considering that people do not follow traffic rules as they should and the traffic is usually horrible, forget driving a bike, it is sometimes scary for me to even ride pillion.
From my day to day activities as well as PT class experiences, I can say that my hand-eye coordination is not up to the mark. Case in point, I have managed to fall down on flat non-slippery ground many times, bump into walls that I’ve been familiar with for years and also tripped while walking up the stairs (not down, but up the stairs). As for sports, I’m known to dodge a ball when I’m supposed to catch it, all the while being well aware that I’m making a mistake. What can I do, I have an overly active amygdala with a default fear response set in flight mode. So, I can conclude that it may not be wise for me to drive a vehicle. Perhaps my dad’s worries are well-founded.
When people come to know that I cannot drive, most people are genuinely concerned and advice with good intentions. Some find it unacceptable and mock me, while some say ridiculous things and irk me. Only a very few people don’t shove an opinion to my face when I tell them that I don’t want to drive. I normally do not bother explaining and just smile politely. Maybe, the next time someone asks me why I don’t drive, I’ll just ping them this link.