I can be called the Queen of U-Turns. I can never reach a new destination without once taking a wrong turn or heading at-least half a kilometer or more away from my destination and then realising something is wrong making that U turn and heading back again.
The first vehicle I learnt to ride was a cycle like most of us, but unlike most of you, this was not a simple SLR or even a champ. My first learning experience was an Atlas cycle, male version (yes, with the bar), huge for a 13 year old, and with no brakes. It belonged to my dance class friend. So I would meet and greet this no-brake-tall-guy every Tuesday & Thursday surreptitiously during class hours. Sneaking out of class and chakkar marroing around the streets was a thrill.
What is interesting is that I could not climb onto the cycle normally, I had to find a boulder or a raised platform, from which I had to literally launch myself onto that tall guy and then quickly pedal off. What was even better was alighting from it. No brakes...so I had to cruise to a corner, or a grassy patch and kind of jump off. Almost a death leap!
So when I did get my hands on a regular cycle later on, (hired cycles during the summer holidays was an amazing way to spend the hot Chennai afternoon), I could never ride it normally; I would pedal fast down the narrow lanes, take U-turns dangerously and invariably crash into any stationary or moving vehicles around corners, because I would forget there was something called as "brakes:" that I could use for a better way to halt.
Dad was totally against two wheelers so I had to learn that again with the true friends who lent me their old second hand scooties. But I got caught red-handed by him and so he fast-tracked me onto a 4 wheeler as soon as I turned 18 years, which he felt was safer and also that he could get me to learn properly from “authorised sources”!
The Acid Test was the post License test drive that I had to take with him and my driver. Oh, Yes. My dad seated next to me, my driver at the back, who I could see through the rear view mirror, driving down Panagal Park on a Friday afternoon. (Panagal Park is like Sarjapur Main Road on a good Day –btw nothing is comparable to Sarjapur Main Road on a Bad Day!)
I was not nervous, I was not afraid of the crazy traffic, that cris-crossed my left and right and I was so sure that I belonged behind the wheel that I even got a smile and a pat from my driver.
The fallout of this which I did not bargain for was that now that I knew driving, my father started promoting my skills for free. Every discerning relative who landed up at home was offered a ride.
“ Oh the Bus Stand is close by but not walk-able, Sowmya will drop you there and wait till you get your bus”
“ The auto stand is a bit far from here, Sowmya will drop you off to the nearest auto stand”
I became the glorified Taxi –ferry service without pay!
Chennai is pretty easy as far as roads are concerned, big sign boards, straightforward left and right, and more or less roads that reached you to your destination without much confusion and anyway I spent only 5 years of my driving life there. The rest is dedicated to Namma Bengaluru!
We got a car a year after I was married, under much duress from my father as he hated us travelling everywhere on my Husband’s old Bajaj Stride (btw I loved it– such fond memories – but that's another story). A red Matiz which to me was a true Herbie and I went bananas with it! I became synonymous with the Matiz and it was a unique car in itself as there were not many takers it.
As a wannabe Storyteller, one of the first assignments was a 9am StorySession at a school in HSR layout.
I remember asking for the address and carefully jotting it down...asking for directions and scrupulously noting it down too and then as an added measure – I asked my Husband to give me directions. Now it must be brought to your notice that this is not an easy thing to do. To let down your ego enough to ask your husband to guide you, is a big deal. But I thought his inputs will add value.
...And then he opened The BangaloreMaps!!
I stared at this piece of paper as he started to point out our location and my destination and the various paths leading to it:
- The Map itself looked like an alien terrain sketch with gibberish written on it
- My head starts spinning
- My ears underwent a shut down
I could see my Husband’s mouth opening and closing and words pouring out but very little registered. I am sure I had the most intelligent look on my face, but I know I was flying really low on comprehension.
Maps are beyond my understanding as they look nothing like what I will actually encounter and motor through. But I know if I prolong my conversation anymore with my Husband, whatever little that has registered is going to muddle up even further in my head.
So I hastily gathered my bag, my props and chucked them into the car. I have the address, I have a vague idea where to go...so how difficult was this going to be?
I start my journey and very soon, the muddle takes over.
Has this ever happened to you ?– all the visuals and images of places and routes somehow superimpose in your mind and results in an end product that does not bear any resemblance to reality? Where you think you know where you are but actually you are driving up the wrong alley, because that was an image from another route?
That’s what happened to me. Every turn looked familiar and I felt I was heading to wards my destination. The map in my head and the map I saw on paper – merged into a new map of my own that was taking me to a point nowhere close to where I needed to go.
I was panicking now...it was getting late...very late.
I stopped...asked random strangers – who gave me random directions.
Seeda Hoggi – U turn maadi...thiruge banni aamele...
I felt like a bad character artiste in a silly comedy movie trying to understand the dialogues spoken in a foreign language.
Come on – God – Universe – Guide me – take me to the right path – Sweat was pouring down my back.
I asked and asked and asked and finally after many Lefts, a few rights and couple of U –Turns I reached the school. Phew!
Those poor Tiny Tots had been waiting for 1.5 hours for me to arrive and I had to salvage the session by jumping right into the story ....
And No they did not call me again and Yes that's not the last time I went in circles looking for a place!
Many many more days have followed that eventful day of going around Bangalore. Missed turns, wrong turns , U-turns and travelling a kilometre or more away from my destination and then back tracking to finally get where I have to...
Why can’t I get it right? – I have asked myself many many times – in-spite of having an address, taking directions – why do I take that wrong route – why am I taking that extra U turn??
I have a theory on that –
- Subconsciously this is my way of going off the beaten path – because I like adventure and normal life doesn’t allow for much of that.
- I enjoy the thrill of being lost
- I enjoy the change and the rush of adrenaline and a healthy dose of anxiety.
- I enjoy the chance to explore and navigate new places
Once I allowed myself to feel this way – to give myself permission, I feel better at handling these detours better. I am less self critical. Let go and enjoy the view is what I tell myself, after all eventually – somehow I will find my way home.
Nowadays Google Maps and GPS have reduced my wanderings a bit...a bit!
Last week I typed in my destination to get from Kormangala to KR Puram -and found myself taking a route to Hosur Road, and then I had to make that U turn to join back and get to the road leading to wards where I wanted to go! You see even on GPS – it gives you the route with the least traffic possible and you have to exercise the option of alternative routes!
I patted myself – GPS or no GPS – I am definitely reigning Queen of U – Turns!
( disclaimer: The title term "Queen of U turns" is borrowed from my friend Preethi Sundaram!
Some fictional elements added to the story)
This is a Personal Story written for the theme U-Turn!