TheCalmDev (Dev J Haldar)

ravings, rantings and ramblings

Driving in Dubai

Keep to the centre… place both hands at ten past ten position… line divides a road into lanes… white is one-way and yellow is two-way… gear first and then hand-brake… anything else and you will definitely fail…

Who thought, in their wildest dreams that one would have to learn driving (all over again) and study it like your PhD paper. Theory and practical. Saving grace is that it doesn’t have any journals or reference material that one has to read apart from the hand-book and CD; or you would be trooping to the nearest reading library to borrow books on Driving in Dubai.

One must keep in mind, that I am come from India. Delhi. Where bigger the car, ensures you the  right of way. Where honking incessantly is the magic solution to thinning traffic jams. Where keeping a safe distance between cars is giving invitation to the newest fast bike to cut through. Where you can turn right from the extreme left. I could go on and on. In fact it is an adage amongst all UAE driving trainers that if you have driven in India, then you can drive anywhere. Heck, they are right. Drive in Jaipur or in Chennai and you will recognize the Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized egos, cyclists have as they confront any car.

So here I am. Learning how to drive a car on the streets of Dubai. Unlearning all the wrongs and learning by book how to keep it in lane. Insane, one would say (specially if you are from India or Pakistan) But the good thing is that, these lessons clear a lot of things that we never knew, but faked that we did.

I learn in a mid-sized car, something that they, in UAE, term small car. I attend lectures where a lecturer talks about the basics and common mistakes. Eye opening. You also have simulators where you learn on. Private car driving is separate, heavy vehicle driving is separate, bus driving is separate, sand dune or defensive driving is separate. Eye opening again!!!

By virtue of the fact that I possessed an India driving license, my learning classes were cut down from the mandatory 40 to 20. After completion of classes, I shall give a signal test and then the final road test. If I clear it, then I shall be awarded the Bharat Ratna… oops… sorry… the UAE driving license. I am reminded how I got my driving license done. Years back, I went to the Transport Authority office in Sheikh Sarai. Like a prey in the net of hyenas, the touts flocked near me to suck that extra 1000 bucks and get me a driving license. But, I am a man with high standards and ideals. I shall not abet corruption of any sorts. I walked bravely into the office, went to the correct window and said, “license banwana hai” (I need to get my license made) I was promptly shown the door!! I was asked to go out, meet some lackey standing under the peepul tree, pay to him, and then come in to get my stuff done!!! What daring! What gaul! Flouting all Government of India rules, out in the open… I could see the black head of corruption guffawing at me… I don’t have my magic sword lest I could have lopped off his head… I didn’t have an anti-corruption bureau badge to scare out the man’s wits and bring him to my knees… I needed the license… so hail the king!

And so I went back to the crotch-scratching, pan-chewing, balding but triumphant looking tout, standing under the peepul tree and asked him to get my license done. Money exchanged hands. Documents were filled in. I signed like a villager who is only standard-five-pass. Marked all the questions, as was instructed. And a week later, I had my license! Corruption works! Magic!

Cut to: ‘now that is a closed u-turn and the other one was an open u-turn. So which lane will you take when you turn at an open u-turn?’ In India, you would laugh at anyone asking this, but here you listen and answer with military etiquette. Now that is the difference.

My instructor told me I am ready for my signal test. I attended a special lecture on identifying the 4 types of signals that one gets to see on UAE streets (darn, they were there in India as well, but we never saw them). I practiced mock signal tests on the CD provided to me and then the D-Day dawned.  

I missed my mother like she fretted making the right breakfast for me, or my father who would get an auto-rickshaw to take me to the exam centre. But I felt exactly like I did then when I was in school. Imagine giving the signal test!!! You paid 50 dirhams to sit for it. It was like the Maths Olympiad! 10 questions, 10 minutes. Short and simple. You fail, and you get more classes to attend.

I was sitting in the exam room filled with Malayalis (gawd, you see them everywhere), Filipinos (looking as dazed as they do when you ask them directions) other minority Indians, like myself and some firangs (who look like they know Sylvester Stallone, so they better pass the test)

My name was called out, and a computer with a greeting, assigned to me. I started filling in my computer generated number and the system just wouldn’t accept it. It was as alarming like finding out that you arrived for your exam without your exam ticket. An Arab official helped me out with that one. Rare, since I haven’t seen helpful Arabs. They are a myth here in this part of the world.

Questions rolled out one by one. Multiple choice questions. No phone-a-friend. No cheating. Question 3. Answer quickly or you will automatically be marked ‘incorrect’ for it. One surprise question was there as well. Your head throbs; you must score 75% to pass or take more lectures again. Question 7. All correct. Good going. I am gonna do it. Question 10. This is it. I will create history. I hit ‘enter’. Now the people will clap in the stands; paparazzi will click me away to glory; press will take my quotes;  will be a sensation back home in India. Oh shut up. Read your screen. 10 questions attempted. 9 correct. Hurray!!!! I passed! No no… have to make it filmy-style… “Ma… Ma… Ma main pass ho gaya Ma… ab tera beta gaadi chalayega Ma… ab tujhe doosron ke ghar bartan saaf karne ki zaroorat nahin Ma” I shall pass the translation for this one.

But hey, I sure felt good. Pretty much like I felt after my 10th class Boards exam results. Triumphant. I felt am closer to the elusive driving license in Dubai. I am charged about the final road test. I am gearing up for it. Getting a special armour and sword made for it as well.

Tonight, I am going to celebrate with my wife. Shawarmas and Sprite!




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