After renewing my learner’s permit twice, and totally failing to parallel park during the road test, I finally got my driver’s license when I was 18. A few days later, I was in my first (and only) accident: driving home from a party in the rain, I panicked when the gate to our apartment complex malfunctioned, and I drove into it.

Not long after, I started college. I didn’t have a car, didn’t have the money to buy one. So I walked, I took the bus, I begged friends for rides. The reasons I had taken so long to get my license grew as an excuse to continue to not drive: I wasn’t good at it, no one could teach me (I’d had two sets of lessons!), it was nerve-wracking.

When I was 32, I took a motorcycle class. I didn’t pass. I came close to passing! But I didn’t pass. When I was 33, I once again took driving lessons, a gift from my husband after he’d tried teaching me. He was patient and kind; he didn’t get his license until he was 20, so he understood my concerns and slowness. But I didn’t like driving.

Still, I am now in my mid-30s. We live now in a city with limited public transportation, and I can’t expect my husband to drive me everywhere. And finally, I accepted a job that requires driving (or a two hour bus ride, one way).

Necessity has led to improvement. What else has led to improvement? Bollywood.

I turn on the car. My iPod starts. If it doesn’t pick up where I left off, it starts with the first song. A for “Aao Na,” from Haider. I hear it and it means “you’re going to drive and it’s going to be great.”

I think about Rani learning to drive in Queen, how driving empowered her and gave her freedom.

Taani speeding on the scooter.

Kajol looking cool as hell driving on a narrow ocean road in Dilwale.

Kia doing all of the driving in Ki & Ka, realizing how rare it is to see a woman driving in a Bollywood movie, in a Hollywood movie.

Driving is still difficult sometimes. I still don’t really like it. But I can do it. Thank you, Bollywood.

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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