The drive has been pretty uneventful to the office and as I slide into the basement parking, I deftly manoeuvre the car into a parking slot closest to the elevator exit. I get off, lock the car with a flourish and smile with satisfaction. The car, once again, has not been parked straight. It’s at an angle… after all, I cannot for the life of me reverse straight into a parking slot.
I learnt driving over 20 years ago. In the lunch break. That allowed you 45 minutes of driving, in peak hour traffic in South Bombay. 20 days and you got your licence. I did get my licence because during my driving test all I had to do was drive forward. Easy. And there I was, no mean thing on the road, because I drove well, I drove fast and drove adeptly, what if it was only forwards.
Several books and authors will tell you, women were not born to reverse cars. (Reverse fortunes, maybe, cars, no). I do have close friends and sisters who could reverse with their eyes closed (a bit of an exaggeration there, but then what are sisters for!). But me? No way. I just cannot reverse straight.
I have tried everything, while parking. Making that perfect Y turn to get into a pint-sized parking slot. By the time I go back and forth with the car, I have finished making an N, an M and maybe an X or evenan S! But I will not have succeeded making a perfect Y and parking the car straight into the slot.
See a woman struggling with parking and most men, like knights in shining armour, come to the rescue. By the time I have reversed into a parking slot, I have everybody’s driver and his uncle, helping me with, “Madam, aise ghumao, phir fullll turn maro, phir left, ab thoda seedha, ab pooora ghumao”. At the end of this the only thing ghumoing is my head. It’s spinning and after all this when I come out of the car, I see dejected faces accepting their failure, I smile and look. My car is still at an angle after so much of Chandu Deriver Coaching Kilass.
There was a time when reversing was not so much of a problem: the time when I had a driver. But once in a way even a driver needs a day off and on those days, reversing into my parking place when I came home in the evening was solely my job. After one such day off, my driver came up fuming the next morning when he saw the car. As possessive about the car, as if it was his, he told me in an unmistakably accusatory tone: the car has been scratched. And it was obvious to his keen driver eye that that had happened on a pillar in the building. Bad reversing, he must have thought. Almost feeling guilty about not taking care of his car while he was off duty, I promptly denied the charge and said I had nothing to do with it. But through the day the scratch weighed on my mind.
I tried to think of the day before. I knew for a fact that the car had been parked on the road outside the office. It could have been an errant vehicle. But then it should have been a dent, I reasoned. This was clearly the scratch mark scraping a pillar would give you. And with two pillars to manoeuvre through while getting in to my building, that would have been the perfect explanation. Only it had not happened when I was driving the car because that was forward driving and I could do it with relative ease with just an inch to spare on either side.
And yet the car was scratched. Till it struck me! And I smiled. I asked the driver only one question. And when he replied, I told him what had happened. He nodded in complete agreement. When I reached home, I asked my son if he had secretly taken the car for a spin at night. He blushed. “Yes,” he hesitated, “I meant to tell you about that scratch on the pillar, I couldn’t get it quite right.” Then it struck him. “But wait… how did you guess it was me?”
I smiled. I didn’t tell him how. That was a mother’s secret.
The car had been reversed into the parking space, perfectly straight.