Driving – License

-Telugu Original by Dr K.Geeta

-English Translation by Madhuri Palaji

 

When I talked about the driving license again, Surya got embarrassed. If you want to know why, you must know the story of Surya’s Driving License.

Surya came to America two month before I came. He started trying to get the driving license, immediately after his arrival. He took private coaching for about three weeks. In fact, we both have been driving for about two to three years by then, in India. Still, since the driving rules are different in India and America, he said he would take the coaching just to be sure. (Actually, Surya is not as brave as I am, and I strongly believe that is the reason).

One must pass the written test and the field test compulsorily to get the driving license in America. They provide a temporary license after passing the written test. We should practice with the help of it and pass the field test. 

Surya is very successful with any kind of written test. He has very good bookish knowledge. Written test contains multiple choice questions. If we make more than three mistakes, we will fail in it. I still remember how happy he was when he passed the test without a single mistake.

But he hasn’t said a word about the field test even after a month passed by. Not only that, he is getting embarrassed even to talk about driving licenses.

We brought an international driving license along with us from India. But they are valid only for a limited time. 

That day, he started to tell the whole story-

‘He didn’t teach me properly.’

‘Who?’

‘That China instructor.. he gave classes only three Saturdays and Sundays. He said I was ready for the test. Not only that, I could hardly understand what he was saying. Even his English sounded like Chinese.’

‘Hmm!’

‘The person who came to take the test was terrible,’ he sighed, ‘when we were driving on the road, she suddenly said, “Stop here!”. By the time I understood what she was saying I suddenly pressed the brake, and I failed the test for stopping the car in the middle of the road.. how terrible! I never failed any test till date,’ I stroke his hand consoling him.

‘Not only that, I paid $500 to the instructor and another $500 to the car rentals $50 each time I took the car. I have only one option now. I should take another field test before my temporary license expires. Priya, if you quickly pass the written test, we both can take the field test together,’ he said.

‘God, no! I don’t have the patience to take any more written tests,’ I said.

No matter how much he insisted, I escaped telling that I needed to get more rest. To be frank, actually I was scared, ‘What if I fail, too?’

I remembered how, in India, we both made a deal for the driving and license and got it without giving any tests.

That Saturday, I woke up Surya and told him with determination, ‘Come, let’s buy a car.’

‘What.. today? What about the money?’

‘I’ve a plan, don’t worry about it.’

What’s the plan?’

‘We need to have our own car first, to get the driving license.’

‘What’s the relationship between both?’ he asked curiously.

‘That’s where lies the secret.’ I posed and said, ‘You failed the driving test because you were driving consciously.’

‘I didn’t understand a bit.’

‘Mr. Surya, think about it. Everytime you rent different cars for practising. Each time you drive, it’s a new car and a new feeling. Your entire concentration will be on whether you can handle the car or not, not on driving. Another thing is, driving easily is also very important. When will you be able to do that? If you drive everyday. If you go for the test in your own car, the car you are used to, you will pass the test very easily. What do you say?’ I asked, raising my brows.

‘What are you saying now?’ 

‘You go now and bring a rental car. You mentioned a used car selling showroom on your way to your office, right? Let’s go there,’ I said.

While we were returning home in our own car, ‘I couldn’t believe that we will buy our own car today,’ Surya said.

We could pay only 30% of the price of the car. Though we had to take a loan for the rest of the amount, it didn’t matter in the happiness of owning the car.

Next day, I wrote a plan on a paper and put it on Surya’s face who was sleeping.

That paper fell on the ground after some time.

I stuck it to the mirror in the washroom, then I put it in the laptop curve.

‘What’s the matter with that paper, I’ve been noticing it for a while,’ asked Surya.

Seeing how excited I am, he said, ‘Wait, wait! Don’t start yet. I will be back in a moment,’ and ran into the bathroom.

This is the most irritating thing for me. Everytime I have something to discuss at length, I make pointers on a paper and he runs into the bathroom hiding there for about an hour.

Though this is not new for me, I couldn’t control myself and banged on the bathroom door.

‘Here, listen carefully! I’m reading from this side. Number one – we are going out now in some time to practice car driving.’

‘What? I thought you were about to give me a lecture about something,’ he said and got ready within a few minutes, enthusiastically.

‘Where are we going?’ he asked, again.

‘You tell me,’ I said.

He nodded and started the car.

We were in front of the Department of Motor Vehicles, ‘DMV’ in half an hour.

It was empty since it was Sunday. He drove the car from behind the shed-like office in the middle of the huge empty parking lot and said, ‘Here, they asked me to drive from here.’

From then on, every weekend we regularly drove an hour each, from that office driving track to the adjacent streets, and asking each other to park here or to take a turn there.. like an instructor.. we started practising.

My driving written test is the first in my to-do list.

I worked hard day and night studying the book given by the DMV, practising online sample tests and prepared for the test.

I took Alicia along with me for some support.

Surya dropped Alicia, Nidhi and I at the DMV office and left for his office.

Since I took an appointment online, the test will hardly take thirty minutes. I was angry that Surya left for the office leaving us.

When we opened the door and entered the office, I understood why Surya left. There were more than three hundred to four hundred people who came for various reasons.

It looked like the train reservation center in Hyderabad. There were two lines at the entrance. One for those who came with an appointment and another for those who came without it. Both were long.

After all this, they will give you a token. We should wait with that token for our turn. 

When our turn comes, we should go and write the test. After writing, we should bring the answer sheet and stand in a line. There, they will check the answers and let us know whether we passed or failed the test. But there were only two people behind those counters to correct the papers. After waiting for an hour in that line, I started getting irritated. Nidhi sat with Alicia obediently and was looking at me. I felt tired and exhausted. Finally, it was my turn. By the time the lady behind the counter  checked a few answers, someone came and took her with them for some work. The delay increased my tension. My head almost exploded by the time she completed the checking and congratulated me. I passed the test with two mistakes.

I had to stand in another line. This time, the line was for photographs for the temporary license. 

I was irritated with this lengthy procedure.

We entered at nine in the morning and came out at two in the noon.

Alicia congratulated me for passing the test. 

I called Surya to let him know and came home by bus.

I brought biscuits with me, luckily. Nidhi ate and slept on the way home.

Because of our extensive practice, the field test was not difficult for us. We gave the test one after the other and got our licenses within two weeks. 

I got very few marks in the field test. I couldn’t hide the pride of passing the test first time itself without failing anywhere. 

‘It’s not that great,’ Surya said seeing the pass paper in my hand.

‘How many marks did you get?’ I asked him, but he didn’t say.

**************

I couldn’t hide my pride from then on. I started lecturing everyone about how to pass a driving test. 

Nidhi joined school for the fall, in August third week.

We decided that Surya will drop her in the morning and I will pick her up at noon. Surya will take the car. I go by walk to pick Nidhi every day. Usually, Nidhi doesn’t like to walk. We still use her baby cart for that purpose. We play the colors of the cars guessing the color of the car coming from behind. She becomes very happy if her guess is right. She laughs aloud, happily!

One day, Surya had to remain at home until nine since he had to attend a meeting. 

‘Can you drop Nidhi today? Take the car,’ he said without lifting his head from his work.

The school is hardly three signals away from home. Still it takes longer to drive.

I suddenly remembered after getting into the car. I made coffee for Surya but forgot to tell him. I didn’t know if he would see it amidst his work. When I was about to turn back, Nidhi called me and showed her little finger. 

We both came back up climbing two floors. When I tried to talk to Surya, he was already on the phone.

I reheated the coffee in the microwave for a minute and put it on his table. I came down running holding Nidhi’s hand.

We were already late. ‘The school must have rung all the three bells, isn’t it, baby?’ I asked.

Though I knew that she wouldn’t know, I talked out loud.

When we were one signal away from the school, I increased the speed.

We were about to enter the school gate, and we heard the police siren from behind.

Nobody uses the horn here, usually. That sound felt terrible in that calm and silent place.

By the time I understood what’s going on, a policeman came signaling me to stop the car right away and park on the side. 

He asked to roll down the car window and asked, ‘Do you know the speed limit in the school area?’

When I tried to open the door, he said, ‘No, no, you stay put and don’t move!’ That’s when I remembered.. if the police stops us here we should remain in the seat and answer their questions without moving.

‘I’m sorry. My daughter was running late to the school..’ I tried to explain anxiously.

‘Your speed shouldn’t exceed twenty five miles. But you are going at the prohibited speed of forty miles. Can you please show me your driving license and insurance?’ he asked.

He handed me a pink color ticket and said, ‘If you visit the website on this ticket after a week, you will know how much you should pay the fine. You’ll also receive a letter at your home address. Also, you should go to the center here..’ he continued saying something but my brain was clogged and I didn’t understand anything.

We were already running late. Not five minutes, but we were fifteen minutes late.

I didn’t want to give any explanations to the school administration, so I turned around the car. 

Don’t know what Surya thought looking at my sad face, he told his office people that there is an emergency, disconnected from the meeting and came to hug me.

I couldn’t control my tears. He looked at the scared face of Nidhi and asked, ‘What happened? Did they send you back because you are late? Why are you crying like this? I knew something was wrong when you came back some time back..’ and I handed him the pink ticket.

‘Oh my god, police ticket?!’ Surya shouted out loud.

He started complaining, ‘We are finished. If we get a ticket in this country, it’s not only about the fine but it remains as a black mark in the driving history. Insurance premium also increases with it.’

I was already embarrassed about getting caught by the police and now I got extremely angry listening to Surya complaining like this. 

‘It’s all because of you. You assigned me this job which is completely new to me because of your stupid meeting. Look what happened now!’ I said in a desperate tone.

He sat with his head in his hands, silently.

When he saw me not talking to him after he came home from his office in the evening, he asked, ‘Are you still thinking about the police?’

‘Don’t worry about it. The traffic police here seem to catch people at the end of the month if they don’t meet the target number of cases. It’s unfortunate that they caught you,’ he said.

I sat listening to him silently.

After a week, we received a post stating the fine and our frustration increased seeing it.

The fine was three hundred and seventy one dollars. 

Which means seventeen thousand according to Indian currency.

‘Such a huge punishment for such a small mistake!’ I was dumb struck. My voice choked with disappointment and embarrassment. I returned to this world when I heard Surya’s voice after an hour.

‘There are three options here, did you notice?’ he asked. ‘You can file a case in the court. If you win, they will waive off your fine. But you can’t escape if you lose. 

If we pay the fine, pay some more to attend the three day training sessions, and finally pass the test again, they will remove the black mark from the driving history like it never happened. But if you pay the fine and do not attend the sessions, this incident will remain in your history,’ he said.

I was in no condition to listen to any of this. I asked in a low voice, ‘What do I do now?’

‘Get up, first, I’ll make some tea for you,’ he caressed my head, ‘mistakes happen all the time. We’ll see later. We have a month to decide.’

I wanted to go to the court and ask how fair it is to charge such a fine but Surya said, ‘New country, new rules.. we shouldn’t think much about it. It is better to pay the fine and take the training.’ I did the same and tried to correct my mistake. This became the toughest test for me since I was already tired of tests. I realized that I lost all my courage because of this situation.

One day, I found Surya’s driving field test result paper. That was the test we took together.

Surprisingly, he didn’t make any mistake.

Not sure if that is the reason or because I got caught by the police.. should I separately mention who is more embarrassed, everytime we see police or we talk about driving licenses?

*****

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