Monday, February 21, 2011

FlashBack - me, car, gears, dad, neighbors and electrician

In our side of the world, its a tendancy to project 'family pride'. People goto greater lengths, to show-off their supremacy among the neighbors.

One such show-off included getting a car for the household. In Indian metros, cars are not essential. Public transportation options (though crowded) and call-autos and call-taxis provide more than adequate commute freedom.

but, the household decided to get one anyway, for keeping up with the tradition of pride projection.

Normal cars wouldn't do and luxury cars were beyond reach.

after much debate, we settled for the newly arrived, nicely engineered Swift. Ofcourse the high-end ZX bright red one, as anything less would allow room for the neighbors to better ours.

Trick was, it was a stick-shift and not automatic. Automatics are available, but for a costly premium.

None in the family could drive it. It stayed in its pristine condition for several weeks and a driver was hired @ T&E (Time and expense) for occasional trips. During my annual vacation, I attempted to drive with the help of the driver, but the 'gear' thing wasn't my cup of tea. Added with the insane road sense of my dear fellow commuters, i felt like an ant in the midst of a crowded Chennai bus, every second of my drive time.

I decided 'gear driving' was not for me and never attempted to sit in the driver seat after that.

A year passed by and I went back for my next round of the 4-week stay. Car was still pristine as the other house hold members had similar phobia. The T&E driver thrived and was living happily ever since.

On a fine day, after a heavy meal, I heard my dad calling my name and I went down stairs. He was standing near the car. The electric metre reader from the local municipal office was with him. He was there to check on the metre and the car was in the middle obstructing his access.

My dad said, "Dear son, we need to move this thing a few inches back. Sit in and put it in neutral and I will push it".

Hearing this, the electrician gave a stunned look and looked down upon me. He said, he will also help push it with my dad, with a grin in his face.

The 'US return' in shorts and T, with my laptop on one hand, didn't want to go down so easily,in front of that electrician.

I said, "don't ya worry dad. i will take care of it. i will drive and move it back".

My Dad of little faith, reluctantly accepted. He had the electrician stand clear and he moved few feet away, and raised his hands like a traffic cop giving me instructions. "Start... move back.. move back.. move back.."

I went inside, turned on the car, not realising the car was in 1st gear. It shook really wild and jumped a notch like a horse and stuttered and stalled.

My dad was startled and moved away and the electician ran for his dear life.

Dad said, "dear son. please put the car in neutral and i will push". I said "NO dad, it's easy and I will take care of it this

time. All i have to do is, keep the car in neutral and start it, and put the car in reverse gear and move a little. Wait and Watch".

Attempt two, the stuttering didn't happen. car started smoothly, but the moment, i applied the reverse gear, the whole

neighborhood came out of their home and started staring at us. Once the car engages in reverse gear, its customary for Indian cars to sing a song in high volume. This was to ensure the house pets and stray dogs raise and run away, if they were snoozing under the car. In my case it was a loud electro tune of the great patriotic song 'vande matharam'.

Well, the car tried to move two milli metres and stalled again. tried again. stalled again. tried again stalled again. tried again. stalled again.

Dad couldn't take it anymore. he said, "SON, you will break the gear. get out of the car and i will put it in neutral and you push it".

The electrician was back in position and he grinned again and said, "i will help too".

I was so ashamed to stand there anymore, with the grinning electrician and the laughing neighbors who were, by now, thinking, "did he really work in the US? he cant even drive a car?.. shame shame puppy shame... blah blah blah..".

I ran inside crying out 'Mommmmmmmmyyyyy..."

When i returned to the US, after the vacation, I decided that I will buy a darn shift-gear and move it from pointA to pointB, which are more than a few milli metres away.

I can't wait for my next trip to Chennai, dear Chennai !!!


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