10 years – 10 long years – that's how long it took for me to learn driving in Switzerland.
Okay – you caught me there. I am exaggerating. It wasn't as though I was learning the art for a decade, but yes, it did take me 10 years to finally get a Swiss license.
It all started in 2001. Anil got his license after 8 driving lessons to get to get used to diving on the opposite side, adjusting to the new rules, priorities, traffic, etc. So, it was my turn now.
I had an Indian driving license. I had taken 20 classes. Learned nothing. Been to the RTO. Almost killed people and punctured footballs as I drove the Maruti crammed with 5 other "aspiring car drivers" and the examiner. And – at the end of the ordeal I was asked: "Madam – national chalega ki international mangta?"Shocked, I blurted international!
But – ahem – Anil knew that. How did he assume I could pass with 10 classes? Okay – we were new to the Alpine land, with very little disposable income. Driving was an expensive proposition. But, 10 classes?
Ho-hum – I gave in. I said I'd give it my best shot. And, I'd learn from Anil's teacher as he understood the Indian mindset.
Meet the teacher
"Baldev Singh – from Jallandar ji" Married ji - to a Swiss lady. She's a nurse but is earning to be a driving teacher since she seems to enjoy that more.
So Singh speaks a mix of Punjabi and Swiss German with a smattering of English.
Seatbelt, engine, lights on. And I whizz – at the speed of a tortoise. "Faster – Gas gebe (accelerate)" he says. And then he rams on the breaks, looks at my licence. "Fake na. Hmm… 10 class not enough. I guarantee failure. Challo ji!" He says. That's some encouragement.
Over the next sessions he convinces me I'd fail.
He also tells me that when I break, I should keep in mind that I'd come to a complete halt 5 metres later. Well, "I don't even know the distance between you and me Singh –ji . How do I know how far 5metres are?" He slaps his forehead and says, "One, two, three, four, five – yeh lo – 5 trees and so 5 metres."
"Singh ji – there are no trees on highways. How will I know then?"
Next we talk of psycho-motor behavior. Where you look there you drive, where you drive there you look," he tells me. And just as I am about to hit a 100 speed limit at the twilight hour of 9pm, he says, "Look at the moon – beautiful isn't it?" I mutter, "Where you look, there you drive. Want me to take you up there? To the moon?"
We both give up.
20 days later, I am taken to the Strassenverkehrsamt for my driving test. I am shaking with fear – fear of letting my teacher and my husband down. Did I say my teacher? Nah – he knew I'd fail. But letting hubby dear down? Failing for the first time ever in my life? Nah! I've never failed and I never will.
Singh walks out – talks to the examiner, walks back to me and says, "Best of luck, but bad luck – you have the toughest examiner in the history of the driving authorities. Please at least try talking in German!"
Needless to say, I failed. I was miserable. I never thought I'd ever fail – but I did! Never say never!!! And to cope with this was not easy. My world had crashed. Me sense of self had crashed.
After this devastating yet humbling experience, there was more in store.
(Watch out for Driving me cra-a-azy series! )