Sometimes it is our children who play the role of teachers
The man stared at me for a split second longer before he burst out laughing. “So, you actually don’t want a driving licence?”, he asked just to be sure. I stood there wondering, what could possibly be so funny? I struggled as I looked for the right words. I didn’t want to look like as if I was from Mars.
I have had the fear of driving ever since I can remember. It is a disability I have learnt to live with. People have mocked at me and have even asked me how I managed my life. So, it was very important for me to prove a point — no, not to others, but to myself. And so began my tryst with the driving school. Frankly, to turn back and walk away seemed so much easier. I looked at the man, a little weak, and said: “Yes”, I added: “I would like to learn to just drive.”
On my way back home, I visualised myself behind the wheel. The traffic lights posed a problem and then I witnessed an ambulance rushing to an accident site. Surely that did not help.
Long after I came back from the driving school, I had random thoughts in my mind. The man’s laughter still echoed in my head. How could the man possibly know my battle with the fear?
That evening, Sid wanted me join him on a bicycle ride. I declined as I was just as petrified of cycling on the road as I was of driving a car. Sid would have none of it. He cajoled me, pleaded with me and then, finally, dragged me to the bicycle. He then looked at me with his innocent little eyes and said that he would take care of me. I smiled and I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I sat on a bicycle after nearly 25 years.
As Sid mounted the bike, he took the lead and went ahead of me signalling the ‘thumbs up’ sign. He pedalled carefully and looked behind to check if I was doing OK and smiled. I was scared, but I didn’t want to break his heart either. So I followed him gingerly and smiled at the role reversal. Every other minute he called out: “OK Mom?” and I shouted: “OK Sid”. After a couple of minutes, “Mom”, he called out, “There is a slope round the corner. Hold on to your brakes.”
True enough, I found Sid’s warning very useful. I manoeuvred my bike when Sid signalled me to stop. “We have to cross the road”, he informed when the road was clear. “Let’s go now”, he approved. Just as we cycled, Sid wanted me to get to a side. He said: “Mom, you might want to stop and wait because there is a speeding car.” As he cycled and guided me around the block, I was overwhelmed. Surely he was teaching me a lesson or two and I realised that I was having the time of my life.
At dinner that night, Sid was praising me. “She is so good Dad”, he pepped, “She is a natural”, he continued. As I tucked Sid in bed, I kissed him and silently thanked him. Then I walked up to the table where my fee receipt for the driving school lay. I picked it up and told my husband: “Perhaps, it is worth trying for that licence.”
Sometimes, little children can be such good teachers. Who would have thought that a person who hid safely in her phobia cocoon would finally emerge out to dry? Yes, it sucked the daylights out of me. But who cares, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my teacher, oops, my son. At least I could tell Sid another day that, finally, I did try.
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.