I have been driving since I was in diapers, well, almost. After sixty, one lives in a happy haze of long ago memories. That day, I had taken a bit of time off, and much against my policy, borrowed my son’s brand new car, to nip across to look up my grand daughters who lived close by. I am a self admitted fast, and also by self admission, competent driver. But seeing that I was using a borrowed car, Michelle Schumaker was being extra cautious, and toodling along at a sober, grandmotherly pace towards my daughter’s house.
As if in slow motion a scene from an action movie unraveled before my eyes. Hurtling towards me was a white taxi cab. A second cab, overtaking the first, seemed to be drag racing with it. And horror of horrors, from out of nowhere, or so it later seemed to me, I saw a motorbike overtaking both cars, completely in the wrong lane, and riding at break neck speed straight at me. By this time, I had slowed to a crawl, pulled over and stopped, nearly climbing the pavement in the process. Once I saw the bike rider applying his brakes, I waited for the inevitable. The bike’s wheels ‘locked’, sped into a side skid, the passenger catapulted through the air, the rider clung on to his bike, till he flung himself off at the last moment, only when realizing that he, along with his bike, were heading straight under my stationary car. This they both did, with gut wrenching sound effects from my hapless car..
Before you could say, “What the *^>@!,” out of the roads and footpaths, crawled the ghoulish Accident Scene Rubber Neckers. Each had his own learned opinion to deliver. Thick & fast flew varied views, delivered in Hinglish, Tamil, Telegu, and Dakkhani -that marvelous patois of Nawabi Urdu, colloquial Hindustani with subtle undertones of Kannada. Mobile phones appeared as if by magic. Camps were formed. One Camp, championing the cause of all down trodden two wheeler riders. The other, espousing the pitfalls of being a lady driver, and of a Four Wheeler, no less. “Don’t worry, Saar, She will admit her fault, couldn’t she have “yepplied breaks’(sic)?”
I was in total shock, but managed to open the door of my car. My first priority was to check if I had to go the hospital with an injured patient, or locate the closest mortuary, before surrendering myself to the Police. My son’s, till not-so-long-ago new car, I noticed was looking decidedly pigeon-toed, her bonnet had a lovely dimple which would have made the Shehzada of India weep, while her right headlight was merrily twinkling glass confetti all over the headlight assembly. The plebian two wheeler rider lying motionless under my car, for most of that time, was thankfully, not dead. He was just recovering his breath under the bonnet, sniffing the innards of the under chassis, the oil sump & the front shock absorbers of my car, all for free. He had actually been struggling to extricate his motorbike from under the car. Adrenalin kicked in, my foggy brain cleared, if I did not act fast, I knew that the scraggly gathering of ‘my’ Camp supporters too would swell into an irrationally irate mob. My Madame Siddons (that yester year Diva of the London Stage) act kicked in, and I gave the performance of my life. I began shuddering silently into a tissue, soon this turned to sobs, after which I informed all who were within earshot, that it seemed as if I was having palpitations and about to swoon. Their expressions grew anxious, many of the Rubber Neckers slunk away, lest they be called as witness to a fatal traffic accident. A few of the doughtier die-hards hung back. Feebly, I made a few short calls, to rustle up the Cavalry. These arrived, the first contingent, my son & his friends, the next the local traffic police.
In next to no time, all was well with my world. The car needed towing away, the bike impounded, and the errant motorbike rider hauled by my knights in shining white armour, to cool his heels temporarily behind bars. It was with a sense of vindication that a fine was slapped against the rider. My prowess behind the wheel, restored to its earlier levels, and my driving skills much appreciated by my Camp Followers with, “Medam, inspite of being so yelderly, you have yemazing control over your vehicle!” A turn around, high praise indeed!
My ruffled feathers restored to order, my dignity intact, I simpered in matronly modesty. I was just getting set to sign autographs, when my son yanked me back rudely to reality with a, “Come on Ma, let’s hit the road!” Resignedly I gave the police my best regal wave, and Madame Siddons went home to regale the family about her mishap.