Getting a driving license in Dubai, Sharjah or anywhere in the U.A.E. is next to impossible. The rules are pretty simple :-
a. Splurge a lot of money
b. Wait for months on end for a call for the classes to start
c. Do required classes
d. Wait for months on end for a test date
e. Fail in test
f. Repeat steps e to f till you are either broke or the pain in your face can evoke enough pity to get a license.
That’s all there is to it.
India .. telling it like it is
I got a license from India before I came here. I had decided very bravely then that I did not want to bribe my way to get a license, which at the time seemed the more popular option. My instructor turned up promptly at 5:00 a.m. with a Premier Padmini. This wasn’t too bad, as long as you didn’t call it a car and the man waiting inside it for me – an instructor. Usually, the car and my instructor would have plotted my misery well in advance. It would end up that he would ask me to turn one way, I would attempt to coax the car that way, and the car would humbly turn the other way. My instructor would then realize his life’s purpose and start screaming at me. I’d reach home at 6:30 a.m., hand and feet hurting and with a slightly hearing-impaired right ear.
This went on for some time. Then I had to apply for a test. My dad decided to get it done by the AASI. It went on fine, that was until he had me make a garage parking. Garage ..? Parking ..? I’d never done this before. My dad in the backseat was as nervous as I was. I put the gear on reverse, prayed and pressed the accelerator. We made it in. My dad was so happy, he treated me and kept repeating the story for about 4 months afterwards to anyone who cared to listen (including, I must add, to the person who took my test at AASI!)
After I got my license, I didn’t drive for 6 years. Then, when I arrived in Chennai, I needed a car. I thought very hard about my predicament. I made up mind. I bought a ’96 Maruti 800 for Rs. 76,000. Bikes were more expensive than the car. Slowly I began to piece together what driving on Indian roads was all about. Basically, you need to know the most happening swears in the local language and know how to drive in the most impossibly narrowest of gaps. If you see any space, it’s yours. No one has a right to use any space on the road but you.
Sharjah Driving School
When I walked in to Sharjah Driving School, the first thing they told me was I needed to sign up for theory classes. I raised one eyebrow. After a week, they announced that we had to take a theory test after a week. Another eyebrow went up. Surely, some money could get me answers, if not pass me. Nope! I crammed all weekend and took the test. Passed!
Just when I was about say “Phew!”, I was told to cough up 3,000 AED ($ 815) to register for 50 classes. 50 classes. I told the guy at the cashier that I already had an Indian license.
The cashier raised an eyebrow.
I assumed that since I had paid much more than what would have qualified ‘that-was-way-too-much’ bribe in India, my classes would start immediately. I realized painfully that I was not paying to assume. After pulling enough strings to stitch a sweater with, my classes started 2 months later.
I had asked for an English instructor. I got a Syrian instructor, who thought he could speak English because he could say “Good Morning”
If my Indian classes were funny, the Sharjah classes were hilarious!
What he said
What I wanted to do
What he actually meant was
|Barking right||Look right and say “Woof”||Park to the right|
|Shake center, shake
side, shake shoulder
|Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is Mambo #5
|Check your center mirror, side
mirror and over your shoulder
|You File!!!||I’m WHAT???||You would fail!|
|You Road!!!||I’m WHAT???||It’s your right of way|
|You Crazy!!!||I’m WHAT???||You Crazy!!!|
|Make Right||You mean like make babies?||Turn right|
|Betrol Betrol||There’s petrol leak in the car??||Accelerate|
|Go to Hell||Look insulted||Drive up the hill|
After a while we learned to communicate, and I found my instructor was actually a nice guy. He had been working as an instructor for 11 years and his advice was always sound. Nevertheless, I always persisted in making mistakes purposely, because he hadn’t taught it to me earlier. His “Oh My Gooooood! Oh My Gooooooood!” whining kept my spirits happy.
I passed my parking test on the first attempt. I had prepared a lot for it, and the test was an anti-climax, since I did nothing more than drive in a circle and stop. Can’t complain though!
Today was my kuchha, pre-test. My instructor gave me some last minute tips, but most importantly told me – “You no worry, you bass, only don’t be to make hurry”, which I realized was the nicest thing he had ever said to me.
I passed on my first attempt again. Now one more (final) to go!
Here’s a small indication 😉 of what the difference between driving in India and driving in the rest of the world is
Driving anywhere in the world
“I’m planning to turn right. I am letting you know in advance. If you want to proceed straight, you can overtake me on the left. Since I have indicated now, it means I am taking the right ahead and not the one next to me.”
Driving in India