A few weeks back, while clearing out some of my stuff, I happened to stumble on a piece of paper that has been with me for 8 years. It was a wish list I had created as part of a training session at my first job. Our trainer had asked us to jot down everything that we would want to achieve in our lives, no matter how trivial they might seem. I took the instruction quite seriously I guess, because I ended up with 56 points in my wish list. A number of them look silly now, and most of the items have been checked already. But two specific items in the list caught my attention – two of the unchecked items.
– Drive around in my own car
– Learn to play guitar
I felt guilty when I saw these two items because these were two things I should have accomplished years back.
I learned to drive and got my license after a successful road test, complete with the infamous H test, at the age of 18. I still remember that I was the only person who managed to not hit any of the iron rods during the H test. That made me feel a little proud back then too. After getting my license, I started driving our car at home with Amma by my side. The first time we drove together was on a trip to Acha’s place. I must say that it was definitely a humbling experience because it was while driving by her side that I understood how little I really knew about driving, despite having a good instructor. For instance, I kept looking at the speedometer before changing gears according to the memorized pattern – 2nd gear at 15, 3rd at 25 and 4th at 40. And once I reached the 4th gear, I just continued in that gear and speed even while crossing speed bumps, dips and gutters. After a few really bad jerks, Amma finally pointed at the gear and asked me – “Do you really know what this thing is for?” I said, “Yeah, I have already reached the 4th gear.” She smiled and said, “Well, it is not really a target to achieve. You have to keep changing gears according to the road condition. For example, you can’t go on at the same speed and gear when the road is full of huge gutters. You need to bring it down in such a place.” For the rest of the journey, she kept teaching me the wonder of changing gears. By the time I drove back to our place, I had learnt the importance of changing gears and when to do it.
Hardly a couple of months after getting my license though, I had to move out of home and stay in a hostel as Amma flew to the UK to join Acha. And there ended my driving. For the next 9 years or so, I kept moving from place to place and hostel to hostel. And by that time I had developed a huge inhibition to driving. Even after I got married and we bought our first car, I kept making up reasons to not sit behind the steering wheel. Part of me had become too lazy and wanted to relax in the car while Hari drove around. But a bigger reason was that I was too scared to drive, especially on the Hyderabad roads where even trucks come on the wrong side of the road and people have a lower than average traffic sense. I knew I had to get over these reasons and start driving someday. I could easily have done that too. But the fear that I might hit someone or injure Hari in the process made me shrink in fear.
Learning guitar could have been done even more easily as it doesn’t really involve any injuries. Especially with a background of vocal classical training for 6 years and a little bit of violin training in my school days, it would not have been too difficult to at least start with guitar lessons, although it would take years of hard work to master it. Every day I dreamt of playing the guitar while singing my favourite songs. But I kept putting it off citing lack of time as the reason.
And at 30, I was sitting looking at a piece of paper and feeling ashamed of myself for not doing these already. That day I made a decision to not let myself down again and get over my lethargy and fears. Having taken a break from work, I was now doing something I have always been passionate about – writing. I knew I would definitely have time to incorporate two more passions into my routine – driving and guitar. Acha learned to drive at the age of 32 and Amma at the age of 33, and they both drive excellently. If they could do that, I can drive too. My brother learned to play guitar after joining an organization once he completed BTech. And over the years with sheer hard work, he has learnt to play the guitar beautifully and even sing along with it. My uncle started learning to play the violin and keyboard in his sixties and does a good job. If they could do it, I can play the guitar too. From a person who didn’t even know how to make a cup of tea, I have become a person who cooks delicious dishes (yes, I mean it) in just 3 years. If I could learn how to make aviyal and biriyani, then I can do anything.
I have finally accepted the fact that “too old to learn” is just an excuse we make up for restricting ourselves from doing things we are scared of. There is no such thing as “too old”. With a husband who keeps motivating me to do things I love, it would definitely be a shame if I put them off any longer. So this new year, I have started making myself proud already. I am driving around with Hari these days. The fact that he is extremely patient when I drive and never yells (quite unlike most husbands), helps me to make mistakes and learn from them. And today, I went for my first guitar lesson – first of the many lessons to come. Better late than never, eh?