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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Driving me cra-a-a-zy! (Part 2)

So now you all no I didn’t make it in my first attempt. I was disappointed – but more than that I was angry! And with Anil!!! How could he not realize that I can’t come to terms with failure? How could he not know that I needed waaaaaaaay more than 10 classes? Did he not realize that I’d never driven in snowy, frosty conditions? I mean real thick snow! For that matter – that I’d really never driven?

In retrospect – how could he? We’d been married just 11 months! (Ah! Me and my large forgiving heart J )

And now that I’d been here for a year, and not passed my “convert to Swiss license” test, I had to go through the whole rigmarole of:
1.     Theory exam
2.     Practical driving lessons – number of classes to be taken – read this – double the number of years you’ve walked the planet! In my case, 56.
3.     Red Cross Course of 3 solid weekends
4.      Driving psychology course
5.     Practical exam

And you pay a large amount for each step. Those days driving practical lessons used to cost CHF80 per hour! Howzzat for saving and being a new arrival in the land of expenses and high living costs!

Realisation dawns
I am B-A-D at convincing my own hubby.

I tried telling him the joys of public transport. And no kidding, most people – even politicians and top shot business people travel by train. Switzerland is well networked – trains, buses, tram systems are all coordinated like clockwork – and talking of clocks – punctuality is the middle name of public transport here – along with cleanliness, pleasantness and more. Yes, I am truly amazed at this level of attention to detail for a bunch of commuters – nameless and unknown to the authorities.

But – no – Anil had a licence and I had to have one! That was that. So I thought, what the hell – I’ve given umpteen number of exams, so here’s one more. And I had the option to do the theory in English.

And off I go!
I passed the theory, enrolled myself for the rest of the procedures and started practical lessons – this time – with Annabella Meier Singh! Yes, the nurse-wife who wanted to teach. I was her third student.

We bargained a bit and decided to go for 20 – not 56 classes (desi mentality comes to the fore). After all, her husband had taught me before, so 10 classed should be considered done and over with! So classes began. She spoke German and “haan-ji” “nai-ji” – punjabi ishtyle. She said I was doing okay as I drove.

She was a lovely person – until we decided to go on the highway.  “Aradhna – I have three children! No – you’re not set to hit the highway. We will practice parking,” she shrieked – hyperventilating at the same time.

Parking was a bigger fiasco – we tried it everyday, till my 103-point reverse parking became a 3 point-parking J Nice!
The Red Cross course was interesting and so was driving psychology.

Exam time!
Shaking with nervousness I asked if she thought I could do it. “Yes” – she said – and added “may be, but you should have taken more classes”. Well, at least she hadn’t said “No” !

And – she went on – “you have a lenient examiner.” Yippee! Smiling, I greeted the examiner and we were off!

I went on the highway – a bit too slow. I changed lanes – a bit too fast. I parked – at the wrong spot and with 30 false moves or more. And then – I almost killed a dog! Not really. The lady and her dog had crossed both the streets of the main road – and then the stupid mutt jumped back on. On to the other side. It has to be “Superdog” to be able to run all the way back to my side of the street – so I drove on! And the examiner breaked hard and asked me if I had made a mistake. I said no – and gave him the above reasoning. He said I was arguing. I said I wasn’t. He said I was and I continued with my reasoning…

Well, like her other students, I failed – AGAIN! And poor Annabella reverted back to her old profession of being a nurse as she nursed her own mental wounds!

I was devastated yet again! Anil told me about a friend’s wife who attempted driving in Europe 9 times and passed at the her 10th attempt. I said hats off to her. I’m not the kind to go on after this.

But – I was wrong!

Stop the madness!

So I heard, I read, I burned with furious rage. Then a sort of helplessness descended upon me. I was shocked at how ruthless and seemingly just my thoughts around public humiliation, mutilation and torture - could be. I hesitate to put those thoughts here – not for the fear of what the readers may think, but the fear of how intense they are. Yet, the punishment for these sick people is still not fair enough… and these are just thoughts – there was no concrete way to influence the cause which had churned up this whirlwind of extreme emotions.

Shock set in when I heard about the Delhi rape case. Indians – young and old had taken to the streets. The sheer intensity of the sick minds and their torturous deed that led to the death of the rape and violation victim (death being God's act of mercy here since she had been damaged emotionally and her guts had been forced out of her and spilled on the roads of the rape site by the perpetrators of what was mildly put across as "the rape") had started this internal turmoil. As if this one case that had grabbed the media's attention and brought to light was not enough – it now seemed rape and torture was prevalent in big cities, small suburbs and villages as well.

In a country that worships the female avataars of the Supreme Power (MahaLakshmi, Durga Maa, Mata Saraswati, Kaali Ma, Amba maata – to name a few), it was as it is difficult to come to terms with the realities of child marriage, female infanticides, abortions and the evils of dowry and sati – and now this! And what of the morbid news of five year olds being raped. And we aren't even mentioning those uncles and cousins and fathers and grandfathers thinking incest! Unbelievable, infuriating hypocrisy at its best! A blatant display of the pervert mind and sexual frustrations.

 Why blame the West for beaming in those movies, soaps and reality shows-flaunting a sexy leg, giving a sultry look, showing off the subtle curve of a breast? Indian media is no less at showing skin be it in a more-than-just-the-mid-riff bearing soaking sari, a micro-mini skit combined with a cleavage-dipping ultra-tight top, together in a hot spicy item number with all its heaving and thumping and jhatkas and matkas.

But if the Western women can wear what they do (be it straight from Hollywood or the fashion walks of Paris and Milan or something just thrown together) and not be gang raped, why blame the Indian girls for wanting to wear what they believe brings out their best in terms of femininity (be it Bollywood inspired or from the fashionistas that India proudly boasts of? Victimizing victims is what the social structure of India is brilliant at doing unfortunately.`

It's time mothers and others from all walks of life inculcate the right values in their sons – respect for women, equal freedom to choice – be it career choices or dressing up, acceptance of the freedom exercised as long as harm comes to none by your act. Take the society, your friends, sisters, mothers around you and put the woman back on the pedestal that's rightfully hers.

Use religion in a positive way – Hinduism also believes in "Shakti" – why all our deities have their women counterparts (Shiv-Shakti). Have you been seen the sculptures on the oh-so-many temple walls? Do any of the women have their faces covered completely in a 'ghunkat'? Do they wear loose flowing clothes – or beautifully adorned bustiers and mid-riff exposing saris or dhotis? Do they not have the 'solah-singhaar' complete with jewellery, accessories for the hair and waists, a touch of make-up even?

And for all women out there - elegance is the new word for fashion! It's time to get up and be you! Be a charming, attractive person you can be proud of – and feel safe in your skin – in your clothes and surroundings. And – whatever your age woman – learn to stand up for yourself and pick up some form of self-defense!

Being an NRI, it gives me great pride to talk about the positive aspects (and there are many) of India and the big achievements and successes of Indians around the world. But as a woman – when people in my country of residence read about the India of today, ask me questions on the status of women, the state of education, and humanity – I must admit, I put my head down in shame and say, "That's not the India I left a decade ago."

Today (March 11), I was at the hairdressers. the radio was on and the song was interrupted by the news. I call it an interruption since it was a rather nice foot-tapping song - and the news broadcast was rather disturbing. Yes, once again it was that of the Delhi rape case. And - heads turned towards me with very mixed expressions that flashed across those concerned faces...What could I do but hang my head in sheer shame at the time... WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE if you were the only brown-skinned Indian among Europeans - 2 of whom knew you were from India as well... Well...

Sigh! It can't get worse! A Swiss woman was raped today... Makes life for NRIs in Switzerland a touch difficult - don't you think?