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A Driving Expedition
by Preeth Ganapathy

I never drive if I can help it. Humongous traffic jams on roads accompanied by impatient glares from fellow drivers just do not make it worth the hassle. So, it is my husband who usually drives, while I sit beside him content in essaying the role of a deft navigator.  

But this lockdown, I was struck by an idea, like a lightening lighting up the night sky. Wide roads stretched out their arms tantalizingly, beckoning me to drive through them. So I decided that when the need for buying essentials arose, I would drive down to the local grocery store. This way, my latent driving skills could be sharpened within the confines of lockdown regulations.

The D-day finally dawned. I pulled up my socks at the imminent prospect of getting behind the wheels.

‘Do not get confused between the brake and the accelerator,’ my husband proffered sage words of experience.

‘Don’t drive too fast on empty roads,’ my father said.

‘You’ll do fine,’ my mother smiled.

I got into the car and maneuvered it to the accompaniment of a barrage of instructions from husband. The nuts and bolts of my driving skills were rusty and needed oiling. Tension hung heavy in the air. My thoughts wandered back to the time when I sat for a particularly difficult math exam, back in school. The question papers had been doled out. It was time to start answering.

It was my husband’s turn to play navigator, as we moved at tortoise pace, along the pathway from the parking space to the tarmac. We made it to the store eventually, with me stopping at all the signal lights and switching on the indicators wherever required, even though the roads were completely empty. The drive back home was equally smooth and uneventful.

‘Take a deep left,’ husband said as we neared home. A small reception party comprising of my parents and my toddler eagerly waited at the door. Parking the car in front of these onlookers was a real challenge now. Feeling the spotlights shine bright on me, I began my performance.

Pressing the accelerator, I made two turns of the steering wheel to the left. The car stood poised to make it through the narrow entrance. My heart swelled like a balloon with the pride of success. I now had to inch along just a few meters.

‘Stop,’ my husband yelled.

‘Preeth,’ my mother cried.

‘Don’t,’ my father shouted.

‘No, no,’ said my toddler waving his tiny fist frantically, probably imitating the elders. Seconds later, I heard a loud scrunch.

I had unwittingly turned the steering wheel, a few degrees left, damaging the two flowerpots that lined against the compound wall. Three long scratches adorned the side of the car. They will forever remind me of those seconds when I lost concentration.

What was that saying again? Ah yes, pride always comes before a fall. Always.