I looked at the challenge, took a slow, deep breath, and told myself I could do it. I took one more look, trying to mutter some confidence into myself. “Di, I’ll get late”, hissed my sister from the passenger seat. I took one last deep breath and holding it, cranked the engine, and pushed the accelerator. I could do it! I could go up that upslope ramp and out on a normal, plain road.
The speed wasn’t beyond 30, but it was enough to rattle the lady on her morning walk, just outside the entrance of my society’s basement parking. I turned the wheel to the other side, my legs flying well above the A-B-C, making sure I didn’t touch ANY of those, even by mistake. I hit the tree by the sidewalk. The lady had by now fallen, gotten up, and was screaming while tapping on my window incessantly. My mom was watching all this drama from my 6th floor balcony. I rolled the window down, mumbled my apologies, shaken and hurt, and started off – knowing my sister was getting late for work. Accident or near accident, a fast beating heart or none, I could handle the roads. It was the inclines I had problems with.
I had just moved back to Delhi, or Noida, to be precise, with my 9 month old daughter. My husband was away, and there was hardly any local transport available. So I had bought my first car at the age of 30. Since I didn’t have much of a driving experience, I took driving lessons, just to be sure (some friends would probably remember my tryst with a scooter I turned into a rearing horse, right in front of my hostel in Delhi University). I was a fast learner (surprising myself), but just couldn’t master the upward inclines.
The first time I had to take my car out, I called my best friend – my saviour. We did a small little puja before I sat in the driver’s seat while she gave me moral support from the side. As I had feared, my car stopped midway on the slope on the way out of the parking. I sat on the brake and wouldn’t let go, despite the motivating words from the passenger seat turning into loud, angry threats, and obnoxious pronunciations of my idiotic behaviour. Meanwhile, another car sneaked behind, honking. My friend friend pulled the hand brake, but my feet clung on to the brake for dear life. She had to push me out of the car, and I was surprised it didn’t start sliding down. I was also secretly happy that the car would move out of the parking without any exertions on my part, and then I could enjoy my first drive in my own car. To my horror, my ‘saviour’ gestured to the man behind, and backed my car all the way down, instead of up! She then forced me back in the driver’s seat, and up the incline. I somehow managed, more because I didn’t want to be strangled by the man behind, and the deed was done. The fear, however, remained. I would look for free parking space outside, on plain ground, whenever I could. I didn’t want to have anything with basement parking and inclines.
Life was good for a few months, until fate decided to twist the plot. My father suffered a stroke, and was hospitalised for three months, his right side paralysed. Even after he came home, he needed frequent trips to AIIMS – All India Institute of Medical Sciences – for check ups. Anyone who is familiar with Delhi will know that the road from Noida to AIIMS is like a rollercoaster. There is a never ending slew of flyovers and they’re always chock-a-block. More often than not, a vehicle just stops in the middle of a flyover and refuses to start. What I’m getting at is that those flyovers were my biggest driving nightmare. One is continually stopping and starting on those flyovers. If I stopped on one of them, which I would, I could only go down, taking the cars behind with me. It was a recipe for disaster. So, I chose to go with our trusted Ajay bhaiya, the local taxi wala. Until the day Ajay bhaiya and all his troop were busy servicing a wedding party, and I was left stranded.
Having no choice, I decided to drive to AIIMS with my parents. My father’s condition was delicate, and we had to prevent him from any sudden jerks. As my first driving teacher, he would always be giving me instructions on a normal day. But the stroke had impacted his speech, and I was on my own. As we approached the first flyover, I could sense my mom’s anxiety on the back seat. She was almost at the edge, ready to hold my father or me, should the need arise. I can tell you for sure that those were the single most tensed moments ever in my car.
Inclines, however, can only do two things to us. They can either bring us down, or take us all the way up. More interestingly, it is not the incline that decides which way we go. It is us. In that moment, I was determined to not let the incline win. It was about us, and my responsibility towards my father. In that moment, I let go of my fears. If ever there was going to be a day to do it, it was the day. Slowly, but surely, I crawled my way up one flyover, and then another, and another – traffic notwithstanding. As we wheeled into AIIMS, my parents smiled. Those were also some of the proudest moments in my car.
That day, I learnt that inclines come in our lives to test us, and teach us a thing or two. They teach us patience and perseverance. They force us out of our comfort zones to do what is required at the moment, or we slide down. We must know our ABCs and know when to use the right one. If we can manage to balance all of it, there is only one way to go – upwards. And at the top of the slope lies new heights and a beautiful view!