• Mohana Prabhakar

Last word

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

When the car in front of me came to a sudden stop in the middle of a relatively empty road because someone ahead had decided they wanted to turn, I braked a bit hard. And like a good human being, when my other half came off the back of his seat with a jerk, I said sorry. He giggled. Yes, giggled. And when your spouse does that, especially if you’ve been married for a fair amount of time, words are often not necessary.

So you mean to say I drive like this all the time?” He stayed mum, but a stifled giggle came through again. Since he was getting off in two minutes, there was no time for recriminations and I hoped my stony silence would send a message. This while multiple rejoinders all related to how I was an amazing driver kept running through my head.

A few days later on a rainy afternoon, he drove with such swashbuckling abandon around bends and through giant puddles, that it was only the inability to come up with a suitably devastating retort that kept me quiet. And, the knowledge that some battles are best left alone.

Driving, which is anyway a rather sensitive subject between husband and wife, father and son, brother and sister and so on, has a lot to do with perceptions. We form opinions based on personalities, cars and our relationship with the driver.

I  didn’t know how to drive till I got here: I had never found it necessary or dared to attempt. It was a tad embarrassing when I was handed the keys to a cute red Polo at the end of my first day at work, and I rather intelligently asked, “What should I do with them?”

The real embarrassment came later: Getting a licence was probably the most difficult challenge I faced in this country. I did eventually get my badge of honour, and irrespective of what my other half may say, I did learn how to drive properly. The problem now was that the very same husband who I had thought was the best driver in the world, suddenly wasn’t.

He didn’t necessarily take the outside lane when he was going straight from the roundabout, he didn’t ever reverse park, and horror of horrors, he didn’t always stay in his own lane and occasionally a tyre would go on the white divider line. And indicators? No sir. Not every time he took a turn.

This led to many gentle and not-very-gentle fights on the subject of driving, with righteousness and freshly learnt rules as my guides, met with disbelief, annoyance and more disbelief from the other side. He continued to insist I drove too fast, while I defended myself with gusto and attacked on multiple fronts.

The funny thing is that my brother, who I always say drives like he is on Red Bull all the time, is the only person in the world to whom my husband will willingly relinquish the steering wheel. And, he will even fall asleep while my brother is driving, which annoys me no end.

Gradually over the years, we progressed to an uneasy truce, and since I am the passenger 90 per cent of the time when we are together in a car, I have both become unused to being at the receiving end of criticism and a bit too used to offering gentle advice on his driving.

This is probably why I am still smarting over his quiet expression of amusement in relation to my driving skills last week. Just to check whether he regretted it, I threw in a question while he was busy with some official emails.

“What do you think of my driving?” “Good,” he said instantly and with all sincerity. I sat up, a warm, forgiving glow spreading through me, and then came the next bit as he continued tapping away at his keyboard: “Except you drive fast. Too fast, actually. You can’t seem to drive slowly.”

Do you think he realises I will remember this forever?

#backseatdriving #s

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