Yes, I think my dream would certainly be possible, but first I’d have to overcome two Major hurdles :
1. Learn how to drive a manual geared car
2. Have the courage to drive on the mean streets of Kolkata! And I think the former point isn’t as intimidating as this one!
Yes, I admit I don’t know how to drive a manual geared car!! When I see elderly women zipping by in manual gear cars, I feel a twinge of envy, and so I decided that during my stay in Kolkata, I am going to get myself driving lessons. If I succeed in driving on the crazy streets of Kolkata, I’m pretty sure I could be some sort of driving champion by the end of it!
I am lucky to have a driving instructor who is patient, and explains over and over again (nicely) the mistakes I make and how I should correct them, while I am almost tearing out my hair over the infuriating angle when I should be lifting my big left foot off the clutch and pressing down simultaneously the right foot over the accelerator.
I noticed that the car I’m learning to drive in doesn’t have a side mirror on the passenger seat. My instructor told me that’s normal. Given the proximity and speed by which the other cars drive next to you (you can even stretch out your hand and control their steering wheels, they are that close to you!), the side mirror is a hindrance to the other cars, and cause of stress for you when they do get broken ultimately.
On any normal day when I learn to drive, I have to watch out for the following: Irrational driving of the taxi drivers, their ancient Ambassador cars are already so battered, they wouldn’t mind if their car got further scratched up against your sleek new car; a big majority of drivers who have probably never been to driving schools and perhaps don’t own licenses, or maybe they do, but they know this is Kolkata and one can drive any which way, there are no rules, and such drivers are usually maniac drivers; no lanes on the roads, rather no road rules at all; assorted animals that walk and cross the roads at their own pace, namely cows, dogs and the occasional goat; motor cyclists who ride at crazy speeds and have the annoying habit of appearing out of the blue in front of your car just when you’ve changed your gear to the fourth, and abruptly decide to slow down; pedestrians who look at you unsure whether you will slow down or not, and decide to take the chance and make a dash to cross the street. Also, I discovered that in Kolkata, one says the word ‘island’ for ’roundabout’. Everytime I crossed a roundabout, my instructor would refer it as island, and through initial confusion I finally got it!
I asked my instructor to give me a sheet of the traffic signs. Here’s a pic of it. When I saw the sign for the left turn, my tired brain accepted the fact that it was probably the driver using a gun to shoot another driver. When I inquired the next time to my instructor, he told me it wasn’t a gun but the hand of the driver that he uses to make a round sign. Ooohh!