The Immigrant Diaries – Edition 6 – Driving
Hi. This is a serialized story on life here as a new immigrant, one on an H4 visa. Here is the sixth edition. Do let me know if and how you like it. I want to hear from you as it makes my work more fulfilling. Also more interesting. You can find the fifth editions here. The first edition of this story on H4 life is here.
‘Stop. STOP. Reverse, reverse. That’s not reverse. REVERSE’
Arjun was shouting. Something. All she could hear was the tension in his voice booming in her ears. Her mind was a blank. Suddenly he yanked the gear into reverse.
‘Push the pedal. Push.’
She did and the car leapt backwards.
Jam the brakes. A loud HONK shattered the tension.
A stressed out gentleman in a red shirt and red pickup passed them sticking out and wagging his left the middle finger.
There was a strange buzzing in the sides of her temples and her head hurt. She saw nothing. She had never been shouted at by Arjun before. She had never been shown the finger before. The hair in the back of her neck stirred and she felt a strange shiver. She checked to see if she had tears, but she had none. But her eyes burned.
Very quietly she said ‘I am getting out. You do it’
Arjun leapt out. In relief, it seemed. She didn’t bother to get out, just climbed over the gears onto his seat.
He maneuvered the car to the gas pump, and started filling it up without words.
Now she would have to deal with going back into their little shell with a man who had just shouted angrily at her, have no one to call and talk till next morning, and deal with the twin uncomfortable prospects of ignoring the whole issue or making a big deal out of it.
Just a week back she had received with honors her ‘Learners permit’. It had meant spending two days memorizing a book of rules Arjun had provided her. The day before she had been nervous, waking up once or twice in the night, remembering her exam days from long ago. But when they reached the Department of Driving Services, at 5 am, she had felt quite at home in the long queue that formed. Things that were the same, even mundane, tiring things, calmed her. She had her permit now but felt in constant terror lest she forget a rule.
Since then she had been practicing driving with Arjun. It had started with short, tame affairs up and down the road next to their apartment in off traffic hours. Once she had driven to the highway and had clung to the right lane at 50 mph, snail speed by Atlanta standards, much to the exasperation of several drivers. But then she had felt righteous about obeying the speed limit.
Each trip had had its share of moments but none had flared up like this one. Usually she bristled under Arjun’s rather condescending tutelage but in absence of any open argument, just held her tongue.
What bothered her most was that there were always trucks. Huge eighteen wheelers hurtling down the highway behind her who seemed able and even ready to crush their VW Jetta. They would grunt and puff next to her at exits and threaten her with ‘I can’t see you if you can’t see me’ signs as she timidly tried to pass them. ‘Oversize Loads’, double oil tankers, trucks carrying more trucks speeding along her peripheral vision and making her grip the wheel tighter.
And yet in Delhi, she had been a bold driver, sneaking into smallest gaps between two lorries in her red Maruti 800, wedging herself inside a second lane that seemed to be moving faster before the neighboring driver could react, being the last to whisk through the red light just as the boys with their magazines and women with half naked babies got ready to drum her windshield.
She felt a pressure to obey the many rules. She felt a need to be nice – stop on a high traffic road to let someone in, resist honking with abandon at every corner. All this made her nervous.
On the way back Arjun assumed a most irritatingly pedantic and reassuring tone as he lectured her on driving. She hardly heard what he said. She had not thought him capable of shouting at her. She knew fights and arguments came with marital intimacy and they had had their trifles, but nothing like this. If she spoke her mind back to him, which she badly wanted to, she would have to do an embarrassing volte face when she would ask him to take her out the next day for yet another lesson. Because that she would. She had to get her license. It was one more step to freedom. So she listened silently and coldly as she held her tongue.
(To be continued)
The next edition of the Immigrant Diaries is here.
Do let me know your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear them. Also, it would be great if you register on the site and share your H4 stories but that is not neccessary for comments
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