Males are driven primarily by ego. Knowledge, education, capabilities, all take a step back when ego jumps into action and starts taking charge of the situation. Seldom does it happen when ego triumphs in the end trumping conventional wisdom; and in the rest of the cases, it is a sad sight seeing ego fall flat on its face, while the rest of the faculties sadly look on, trying hard not to gloat over their victory. So, what is it that instigates ego and lets rational thought and judgment go to the docks? I'll be damned if the answer to that question was straightforward, for, it would have certainly prevented a lot of wars from happening in the first place, avoid losses to the humankind, and in this particular context, ended the eternal battles of one-upmanship between the two sexes - which is where my introspection about my bloodied and wounded ego began a few days ago. Like everything in time, that has to fall into its place, like good education, gainful employment, marriage and the fruits of that union shortly thereafter, there comes a time in every man's life, when he comes face to face with the uphill task of teaching his female form, the graceful and the delightful art form of automobile driving, the 4-wheel variety. Never did I realize that this seemingly simple task of driving straight on the road, braking when required and accelerating when needed, would take such a (painful) stock of a relationship, subjecting it to every kind of strain, stress, push and pull test, ever known to the humankind.
Instead of using silly games like "how much do you know about your partner", "NewlyWeds game" (where couples are given questionnaires about each other that are to be filled out separately and then compared at the end to see how much they about the other partner and how much they understand each other''s feelings), strap them together in an automobile, and allow the female form to take control of the steering wheel. If you want to really tighten the screws, make it a training session, preferably the first one; and if you really want it to be cruel, make it the first time that the female form has driven any kind of motorized vehicle, let alone a car, ever. It would make break a relationship, with true colors coming out in all splendors for the whole world to see.
Quoting Pandit Nehru's famous phrase, my "tryst with destiny" happened a few days ago, when I took the co-driver's seat (on second thought, why do they even call this a navigator's seat, because, as I later found out (quite painfully), I could neither assist in the driving, nor was I able (allowed) to navigate properly) and let the female form completely in charge of my fate, fortune and my lifeline (in that exact order), as I held out the driver's side door, in a gesture of great elegance, and let her take the seat, the wheel and the charge. Prior to this event, the female form had been coached for a couple of days, in ways of driving on the roads without causing to be a detrimental factor to the concept of the Driver's Honor Code ("Drive and let Drive"), by a nearby driving school instructor. The fact alone had been an object of great comfort to me, that I would not be her first guinea pig and neither would be the fellow pedestrians and co-users of the roadways. In that little excitement, my mind failed to register the obvious, that driving alongside an instructor is much different from flying solo, as different as the sun and moon, as the instructor would have a second set of controls (particularly, the life-saving brake), with which, he can at least, among other things, save lives, when the dire need arises. In the euphoria of watching the female form demonstrate whatever she had learned at the school (at the cost of quite a top dime), I completely overlooked that most important detail and gladly strapped on my seat belt. It is only a few minutes, when the female form reversed the car out of the parking lot, did I come to this painful realization, that with the female kind, whom are they driving with is more important than the fact that they are driving at all.
When the driving instructor signed off on her evaluation sheet after the instruction course, he rated her as a good learner, who could adapt to the situations fairly quickly and adjust to the conditions accordingly. Little did I know, that that certificate amounted to nothing more than the conduct certificate issued, at the time of the passing out of educational institutions, where everybody's character and the conduct is at least very good, if not excellent.
Walk a mile in others shoes before you start judging them, goes a paraphrased quote from the Old Testament. I tried, I really tried. I tried to jog my memory back to those days, when I learned to drive the car in a straight line, as I sat through watching in pure horror, as the car I am sitting in, careened off casually from one lane to another, without so much as a blinker, or any visual indication to the following that there was a change of mind and hence a change of lane. Was I this bad? Was I this terrifying? Did everyone around on the round went around with bull's eyes painted on their backs when I was driving? I sincerely relied on my memory to provide me a valid feedback, and on getting nothing, I let out one of my first shrieks (masquerading as manly shouts), terrified at the prospect of getting killed, sandwiched between 2 18-wheelers whizzing by, or killing someone, who had the misfortune of trusting people behind steering wheels blindly. My blood pressure shot up, my heart was pumping faster than usual, my temples were throbbing inside as though with a huge gong, my mouth became dry in an instant and I was having difficulty to come up with intelligible responses, other than a yip here and a yap there... I was a wreck, if you can excuse the pun. I couldn't believe that the high-priced instructor's lessons translated to this. It was a moment when frustrated poked at irritation and irritation paid it back in kind in the same coin. As all that was transpiring as the action was happening right in the middle of the road, I could neither ask (shout was more like it) her to pull over and switch places, nor could I close my eyes unable to bring myself to witness the inevitable carnage that was to take place, if things went unchecked as they were.
The helplessness of the moment exacerbated the situation even more. The more I yelled at her doing things right, the worse it got. The female form was welling up by the moment, obviously, from never hearing somebody yell that close to the ear at that high a pitch. The sight of her crying irritated me even more. It wasn't that I wasn't sympathetic to her situation and I certainly wasn't showing her tough love, but the rational part of me kept thinking that the layers of tears forming inside her eyes were definitely going to impair her judgment even more, as she was too tensed up to wipe them off, lest she took her hands off the wheel and cause some accident thereby.
Adversity builds character, I tried to comfort myself. This was necessary. You cannot twist or bend an iron piece until you slam on it, when it is red hot. It was a tricky situation. How can you teach somebody an instinct? Instincts can only be developed over a period of time, and driving is definitely an instinct, particularly, when it comes to responding to a situation on a reflex. But the sad part is, there is no other way of drilling that instinct in, than through hard training (with the operative adjective being hard). Add to that, the trainee is not a kid, who could be bent at will to any desired degree, and importantly a kid who would forget things quite easily to come back to you and play with you, without holding any grudges from before. The trainee is a full blown person, who already has developed a set ways of doing thing - shouting doesn't help, peace works, calm scores and such. But the situation was such that I couldn't help myself get aggravated at the ways things were unfolding before my eyes. By the time the car was pulled back into the parking lot (but not before hearing an earful and not without getting tearful), a cold chill came over and blew strongly between us, and I can say this with all certainty, that the outside freezing temperatures had nothing to do with it. Bilateral exchanges dropped down to minimal utilitarian levels. Monosyllables (that too, a lot more of "no"s than "yes"s) ruled the roost. This became one of those situations when context played a spoil sport than the unwitting players. I didn't know whether I had to apologize or just stay put. After all, I didn't even find a valid reason to apologize. What would I apologize for - for caring about my life and the lives of the innocents out there? I couldn't stay put too and let things thaw on their own, as it somehow felt that the automatic thawing wasn't going to happen either. And that was only the first day...
There was a story about Tenali Ramakrishna, about how trained a cat to hate (more like, get frightened at) the sight of milk, by constantly feeding it boiled milk day after day to scald its tongue, so that when the day arrived to demonstrate to the king a milk-hating cat, all that he had to do was bring a bowl of cold milk in front of his cat, as the cat did the rest, by jumping out of his hand and run of the court fearing for its life. I was somehow reminded of this story, when I handed the car keys to the female form during the subsequent days. (all that was left was waiting to see, if she would run away from her the car, or run away from me?). The charade went on exactly as anticipated, I couldn't control myself, she couldn't help herself - the shrieks, the shrills, the shouts, the sobs. The experience certainly introduced my darker side to myself. It felt as though we need to drive to couples' counseling office, the day she got her driver's license, as I see no other way of saving this marriage, after this fiasco. Providence, is what the staunch believers attest to. During one of the dreadful jaunts, I happened to receive a call on my cell phone that I had to attend to, even if it meant taking my eyes and my mind off the female form's next move. Que Sera Sera - whatever happens, happens - even the Spanish have thrown up their hands in the air, once in a while, in situations that cannot be helped (Now I am pretty sure that the phrase was coined by a man, teaching his woman how to draw the horse-carriage in a proper manner). I attended the call, turned my face away from the road (unable to confront the uncontrollable) and immersed myself in the conversation for the next few minutes. Miracles happen, and they happen when you are always not noticing. All of a sudden, the car adjusted its direction automatically, proceeding in an arrow like straight path along the lanes, braking itself giving enough buffer distance, changed the lanes in the manner prescribed by the department of transportation, and overall, started to enjoy the ride. (HINT HINT: KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND LET HER DO THE JOB). The realization drilled in me, as though with a sledge-hammer. I kept silent for the rest of the ride, enjoying for the first time, the view from the passenger's seat, in my own car.
Tailpiece: I made amends with the female form a few days later, willing to make up for my sins. The penance - I have to learn proper cooking from her for the number of days as she learned driving from me and I was to take all the insults, humiliations, rejections and belittlings in my stride, without as much as raising a brow, word or a finger. Nowadays, I hide my tears behind onion-chopping related discharges.