I love driving. Be that a 2 wheeler or 4 wheeler, I love it. I have driven a lot. I still remember the first 2 wheeler I rode. That was my introduction to the automobile. It was on a pre-1980 model Bajaj Chetak, my father's. My tutelage in driving be that a 2 wheeler or a 4 wheeler was totally by my father. Both involved a strip of desolate road fringing the backwaters in Cochin and though it was more than 6 years ago, I remember it clearly.
Automobiles have always fascinated me. The concept of fuel igniting and driving a piston which turns a crank that rotates the wheel and all that controlled with a thing that will move around 60 degrees in your hand or a few inches below your foot is just great. I love to visualise the drone of the motor to the incredible number of times the piston goes up and down with each explosion and all that letting you go faster than possible by any natural means. The mechanics involved is fascinating. The driving involved is a skill.
Driving has come to me naturally. I mean I learnt it fast. I think it is easier for people who have a slight mechanical bend to the mind. Learning is one thing, driving is another. I mean lots of people drive. But that doesn't mean they drive the way driving is supposed to be done.
What makes a good driver? The most important character a driver should have is consideration. Consideration for other drivers. When you are going slow, don't drive in the bloody middle of the lane, drive on the left. When you are going to turn, let other people know. When someone wants to overtake you, make way for them or if necessary slow down. Constantly check your rear view mirror. Those were some of the basic manners in driving.
Now around 50% of the people out there do all that. What about the other 50%? Well as far as I care, let them rot. But the problem is, you might rot with them. Now there, I was imagining, some crazy guy in a truck seeing you making a move to overtake him, not slowing down even though there is another truck coming on the opposite lane and you have reached a point where you can see his unkempt hair, unshaven beard, a beedi hanging out of his mouth and driving side by side not letting you pass, or like my father sometimes says, even accelerating! Well if you get time to slip through the ever shrinking gap between the 2 vehicles by doing a crazy zig-zag manoeuver (which is kind of difficult especially if you are driving an aging Premier Padmini aka Fiat) or you manage to brake and somehow check the tail fender of the truck before you move behind him again, you both end up rotting (most probably just you). So what do we good drivers do? That brings me to the second most important in driving, anticipation. I remember reading an article by a race car driver about how to drive well and he wrote that anticipation was the most important thing. But that was on the race track. But yes anticipation saves lives off the race track too.
To anticipate an inconsiderate oaf to turn right in front of you. To anticipate someone to jump onto the road from the front of a parked bus. To anticipate the vehicle in front of you suddenly braking. To anticipate that driver of the truck you are overtaking to think of himself as Michael Schumie with his extra-ordinary blocking capabilities. To anticipate and be prepared.
Driving well is somewhat like playing chess. You try to anticipate all the possibilities and then think of what to do in the eventuality of it actually happening. Of course this doesn't come just like that. So initially you drive slow. Get a grip of your reflexes and capabilities. Have a few near death experiences. Then when you are sure of what you can do, drive.
And finally you reach a point where are you can be aware of almost everything that you need to save yourself from ending up as road-kill. A point where you can drive smooth, with the traffic being just an easy obstacle to make your drive interesting, to sometimes get to a point where your senses are so highly tuned, your reflexes at your immediate call, your adrenaline pumping through your body like brandy on a chilly day and then you are one with the thing under you and you fly.
P.S - The last part happens rarely and cannot be achieved wilfully. If an attempt is made to do it wilfully, like a friend once said and brought me back to earth, you wouldn't know what hit you, literally. Always, always have all the things that could go wrong in the back of your mind. And most importantly, if you think you are going fast, you are going too fast.