america · Myself

The View From Behind The Wheel

I have the perfect answer. To the question, “When do you feel your most liberated self?”, I have the perfect answer. It’s got to be behind the wheels. But not just a car. Even when I am riding on the two wheeler, there is a fleeting moment of nirvana that repeats itself in a loop making sure my spirits are high. And take it from me, you can accomplish a whole lot of things during this moment.

Like solving a problem. Any problem. It could be at work, it could be in life, it could be at home, they present their own clear pictures on the road. The canvas is hazy and confusing when you try really hard to think about it but when you are traveling at 50 kmph(minimum), magic happens right in front of you. You fetch the right pieces from that jigsaw puzzle and it works during the first attempt. There is a friend who you hurt this afternoon that you realized just now. There are those lines of code that were giving you hell but you just figured out why or an alternate way to accomplish them. And that’s also the time you thought of this blog.

The instant is uninhibited. I know this because I find myself singing during the drive. Not loud, but to myself. I am not sure if there is a term called car singer or bike singer like a bathroom singer. Now my friends will vouch for the fact that I am a very very bad singer. It is so bad that it can be used as a weapon of mass destruction. The last time I sang was during a Karaoke night at a club here in Madras but that was because there were around 50 people singing along and of course, there was also a girl. But lets not get there. I’d go off on a tangent. (Like J here, been reading David Foster Wallace a lot these days)

The most obvious memory is from the drive on US 64. Late night, going west from the Outerbanks, and handling a V6, it couldn’t have been better. A two lane highway, with cars rarely passing(surprisingly on the night of July 4th, 2008), it was quite the dream. My mind throwing up a myriad of thoughts aided by a 100 mile long playlist, I was happy not looking at the speedometer. There was that huge problem at work that I had escaped from only because it was a long weekend. There was that movie that I was earnestly impressed with. There was that girl who looked damn cute on B’s Facebook friends list(had to go hunt her down asap). And about half hour later, the warp speed gave off, I entered the earth’s atmosphere and exclaimed, for the lack of thoughtfulness to conjure up a word to express myself, “BK!”. And BK, in his forever composed self, sitting behind me goes, “I noticed. You’ve been doing almost 90 on a 70 for the past half hour and I’ve been busy looking for flashing lights on all four sides”.

It was a miracle I was not pulled over that night. The last thing I wanted to do was burn a huge hole in my already tiny pocket. Maybe because it was North Carolina and not Virginia, where we were driving around for the better part of the day. But in the US, it’s funny. Over here in India, it stops being funny and starts being scary. There was a momentary lapse and I sank into my usual code/music/whatever phase again and 10 minutes passed. I found myself in the middle of peak hour 10 AM traffic on Mount Road. I remember wading through the signal at Valluvar Kotam last. Phew! Whatever happened in between. It was as if someone had mixed roofies in my drink and I conveniently didn’t remember a thing(Yes, I recently saw The Hangover and thought it to be infinitely brilliant. You should watch it).

So that’s that. Driving gives me a comfortable high. It doesn’t matter if it’s the I-40 or the Mount Road or the RTO road behind Lokhandwala. It just turns out to be amazingly rewarding by the end of it. So if I am not feeling great, don’t look for me. I am probably on the streets. An empty road and a full tank could be my greatest gift.


31 thoughts on “The View From Behind The Wheel

  1. Yes! And I’m the first one to leave a comment here even though I’ve told you mine on Gtalk :P

    Adi: Haha, yes!


  2. I so so so agree. I love being on the 2 wheeler. I haven’t discovered the charm of a car simply coz I cannot see what’s in front of me sometimes :| But I can imagine :)

    Adi: I don’t *love * being on the 2 wheeler but it is good nonetheless. But you should try you know. I know people shorter than you who drive :P And quite well at that!


  3. Now wonly you realise a? Thats one of the reasons I pained the Husband to hurry up and move to India….nothing like riding a bike on Beach Road on a Sunday morning with your hair open and MJ’s Stranger in Moscow against your ears.

    I miss MJ. But yes, Vandi. It rocks.
    Cha my comment is like some 5 year old kid’s. :|

    Adi: Lol, yes. I’ve read about your escapades with Scooty :D


  4. My dad is similar..He drives on auto-pilot and has often ended up somewhere he hadn’t intended to go!

    Adi: Lol, I somehow manage to reach the intended destination. But I know some people like your dad. And I have a friend who’d always drive home if he’s on auto pilot.


  5. “An empty road and a full tank could be my greatest gift.”

    I feel the same way about driving, although I need a gps to find the way back home

    Adi: Haha, after a point, maybe I would too!


  6. I would say driving is the easiest way to the ‘liberated self’! (of course, there are other ways as well :D)
    Anyway, somehow most of your posts seem to trigger songs in my head. This one’s Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow.

    Adi: Lol, I know, there are a number of other ways! Stereophonics eh? Is stereophonics the new Wallflowers? :D


  7. yes full insurance taking, making mother sister of car into one.

    doing all stunts on farmlands/village roads.

    we once had a mini drag race with to pontiac g6’s..

    Adi: Mini race with G6? Woah, aap thalai ho!


  8. I couldn’t agree more. Good music, sharp headlights, into the twilight and maybe… just a couple of beers in you (I’m not advocating drunken driving), it is the most perfect experience.

    Although, when you get spun around at 50 mph and there’s Comfortably Numb playing in the car, it is spine chilling and psychedelic at the same time.

    By the way, a gult I know got pulled over for doing 90 in a 55 zone. Even the cop apparently knew he was a gult.

    Adi: I think you missed deer on the road. Hehehehe. ROFL @ gult!


  9. very true…..same thing happened to me when i was getting back home after work…..phew the car had good brakes….n certainly miss the bike rides :(

    Adi: Lol, had good breaks? Apdi enna da yosanai? :P


  10. Well written :)

    Driving in the rain is a lot of fun too…stressful when you cant see the road, but it has a certain thrill attached to it, and i’m sure you’d agree :D

    Adi: Oh rains are fun. Inside or outside the car doesn’t matter :D


  11. am infinitely envious of you that you’re back behind a 2 wheeler. Driving a car is just not the same. The bike has its charm. :)

    Try doing that in VA and you’ll be laughing all the way into a whopping ticket :P

    Adi: Is 2 wheeler a girl thing? :P I know about VA. Friends have had terrible experiences.


  12. Empty road and a full tank…is bloody brilliant esp. after a stupid auto rick takes a u turn in front of you. I’m going to miss Chennai (Indian) traffic sooo much.

    Adi: Lol, but you’ll like the roads and the speed machan. Don’t bother about the automatic. That sucks though.


  13. I love driving in the US, especially in California. Driving an I-6 with 240+horses & 220+ ft-lbs under the hood on clean, smooth roads with Monaco-like twists and turns hiding CHP chaps in bikes and interceptors – it’s the world’s biggest tease! Coincidentally, last July 4th weekend, I drove at a little over the speed limit myself. (130 mph/ 210 kph on the San Mateo bridge.) I was a very recent fan of Bollywood music back then and I blame a certain peppy Anu Malik number. :)

    However, as much as I like the thrill of negotiating obstacles at high speed, I just do not have any interest in me to take to the roads in India. I loathe the fact that in India, you can’t say with any certainty where the vehicle/ person in front of you will be in 2 seconds, which majorly screws with my internal decision making algorithm while driving.

    Adi: I remember talking about the San Mateo bridge experience with you. How it is impossible to be seen speeding over there. Lol, and dude! 130 is not “little” over the speed limit!!


  14. Love driving! I couldn’t help nodding in acquiescence, a fact that the missus observed and cemented in her mind as further proof that beloved husband is several notes short of a full octave.

    Adi: I know, tell me about it. Several notes short of a full octave describes it perfectly.


  15. I love drives esp. night drives with Alan Parsons playing on the music system. Reminds me of the times i drove in Illinois esp. late at night.
    Pretty much flat roads stretching away endlessly into the horizon. Good times. :)

    Adi: I know, same here. Good times :)


  16. Having said that – Isn’t a drive down the Chennai-Bangalore high-way pending ?

    Adi: Yep, it’s pending :) Looking for the right company!


  17. i should know considering how often i go for drives. agree, car is a bodhi maram:) a separate thesis should be written about listening to music in the car.

    ps: though scooty has a special place in my heart than a car.

    Adi: I can never understand the love for a two wheeler. But girls totally dig Scooty. I’ve met too many now!


  18. Can you share B’s face book profile ;)

    Jokes apart!,
    I agree..sometimes when you drive you just occupied with certain thoughts and you just dont concentrate on driving …. I always wondered how can we do two things at time…Some listen to music on headphones while doing coding/debugging…i always wondered at such ppl ..eppidi erendu vela orey nerathula panna mudiyum….

    somehow this logic doesnt apply to driving…

    Adi: Well, coding/studying is something I cannot do with music. But driving is something I cannot do without music!


  19. Haha, ironically enough, yesterday I drove on my first “real” highway. It was 3 lanes, fairly busy, and it was on a beautiful road with forests on both sides. I definitely went on the fast lane and was doing 125 km/h the whole way. I didn’t think I’d like it that much, but it was a lot of fun!

    Adi: Oh I would have loved it! Three lane highway and 125 kmph! What are the speed limits like in that country?


  20. I wouldn’t have understood what you were saying a couple of days back, but now after getting comfortable behind the wheel, I completely know what you are saying! It sure feels very competent and efficient to be in control with the car, and I particularly feel like giving myself a pat on the back when I have accomplished a tough reverse parking or reverse parallel parking! :)
    Two-wheeler on the other hand always made me feel vagabondish, and I always felt I owned the road. Now I feel I own the car and what I do with it! (Not quite sure if I made myself clear! :))

    Adi: New to driving are we? Hope you don’t fit into that stereotyping of “Women can’t drive”. I know too many women who can give Schumachers of Indian roads a run for their money.


  21. Agreed , Agreed and Agreed .. Driving Rocks .. But try doing it for 60 km a day .. Without Music as well, cuz its a bike and i dont wanna get run over by a lorry on OMR :|

    Adi: Haha I din know you biked to work!


  22. This really is the summer of the Infinite Jest, isn’t it? Everybody’s re-reading their DFW. I feel left out.

    Adi: Hahaha, even the tennis articles are worth rereading. I read the Federer article again before Wimbledon and once more after the finals.


  23. I thought i left a comment here, wtf!
    Sigh, driving in madras is quite the experience I think the army should ask all its soldiers to drive in usman road during aadi maasam as the ultimate test of reflexes.
    I love driving, and I especially love making my alto squeal. I think driving goes best with 80s rock music (steppenwolf, the eagles…).
    But i must admit I have the most warstttu sense of direction, which makes the quite the favourite of all the traffic bolees. :D I think i’ve been caught in every area atleast once.

    And i loved your post. :)


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