Friday, September 2, 2016

What driving has taught me

Patience and acceptance come with age, and sometimes while you’re driving.

I learnt driving when I was well into my forties. Yes, it took me that long. It also took me a while to get used to driving on Mumbai’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and potholed roads, and alongside reckless drivers. When I finally mastered the skill, well almost, the first thing I told myself was that I’d never speed or overtake.

Four years later, I still enjoy driving and that’s only because I’m like a monk behind the wheel. I seldom honk and I overtake only if I have a wide berth or if I'm on a four-lane highway. But I allow others to overtake me. I let them zip right past. I don’t want their anger and stress and their curses and middle finger. That's not correct. Indian drivers don't show the finger; they only glower at you. I take Mumbai Traffic Police's Pehle Aap (You First) initiative seriously.

© Wikimedia Commons
Often, it so happens that a car overtaking me is stuck right in front of me. A reversal of wheels and bonnets. What was the point of honking and edging past? Nobody’s going anywhere. I manage to stay calm but I’m sure the driver of the other car has lost his peace of mind. His agitation gets the better of him as he desperately tries to overtake other vehicles in his pathruining the rest of his day, or night, and ruining it for others too.

Speeding and overtaking are akin to a mind in turmoil. You run the risk of losing control and crashing into someone or something and harming yourself and others as well. 

As the renowned spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran has said, “A mind that is racing over worries about the future or recycling resentments from the past is ill equipped to handle the challenges of the moment. By slowing down, we can train the mind to focus completely in the present. Then we will find that we can function well whatever the difficulties. That is what it means to be stress-proof: not avoiding stress but being at our best under pressure, calm, cool, and creative in the midst of the storm.”

When you maintain lane discipline and obey traffic rules, you’ll discover that driving can actually be a pleasure and a useful aid to stay calm and in control of yourself. If this attitude behind the wheel can help you relax and proceed at an unhurried pace, imagine how much its practice will benefit you in your finger-on-the-tweet roller-coaster life.

My first driving lesson turned out to be a really good lesson in life.


  1. I'm much the same way. Our speed limit on highways is 70 but I prefer 60 and that's my speed. I also never pass. If there's a bunch of cars ahead, I slow down. My motto is to stay out of the fray. If I ever get to Mumbai, I think that I probably will not rent a car.

    1. Thank you, Nan. Wise decision to hire a private taxi, instead. Safer and stress-free. I often take an auto or cab and take my car out only on weekends when there is less traffic on the road. The maximum speed I have touched is 80 and that was just once, on a new sea link bridge. Better safe than sorry.