The FEAR that I experienced recently
Fear is a fundamental emotion like LOVE. FEAR is also the opposite of LOVE.
Let us see how.
We love to have something; a natural feeling of desire to possess. Simultaneously, another feeling arises. What, if we are unable to get it? That is our FEAR. The FEAR that we may not have what we desire to have, or what we love to have.
We have something with us. It is in our possession. We love it. We love our possession. Simultaneously, another feeling arises in us. What, if we are unable to hold on to our possession? What, if we lose our possession? That is our FEAR. The FEAR that we might lose what we currently possess.
There are no other ways FEAR can arise.
I have been driving a car since 1976. I got my driving license without any meaningful testing. Thanks to our loose systems. As I had been visiting U.S.A almost every year during the last decade every time I traveled I took an International Driving Permit (IDP) from India, for any emergencies, though I drove a car only sparingly there. Generally, it is not difficult to get an IDP in India. However, the process of having to wait for the ever-not-available Regional Transport Authority (RTA) in his office could be frustrating. I must admit that once RTA has seen my passport, ticket, and visa, getting the IDP takes hardly a day, or so. After receiving my U.S. Green Card during 2015, I felt a U.S. driving license would be advantageous. Besides, the IDPs are valid for only one year at a time. To obtain a driving license in U.S, I must clear a written test and pass a road test. Here was my problem.
My fear. My fear of failing. My fear of losing my self-image as an unfailing man.
Let me explain it.
While in Dubai for nine years, I managed most of my commute using the public transport and taxis, which were quite convenient. I never felt the need for a car for myself. Moreover, obtaining a driving license in U.A.E was quite time-consuming and prohibitively costly. Only one out of four managed to pass the road test. Every time, you want to appear for a road test, you have to go through minimum hours of training with a training school. Normally, most people managed to get a driving license only after a couple of years’ of repeated frustrating attempts.
Subconsciously, I had always nursed a fear of failure, all through my life. I do not normally attempt anything unless I am reasonably sure that I wouldn’t fail. I prepare well and then only attempt anything. And, if I had failed once, I had not normally attempted it again. A childhood conditioning that ruled me all the time. I had always nourished my self-image as someone who never failed though reasonably I had never failed in my attempts because I prepared well. Yet, failures were there. I would focus on the significant ones.
Failing in the Rashtrabhasha examination conducted by the Hindi Prachar Sabha, when I was only in my 7th or 8th Standard in the school, I stopped making any further attempt to appear for the Hindi examination again.
Failing in the Commercial Law paper twice in the Second Group of CAIIB examination during the very first year after joining a public sector bank, even though I succeeded in passing the first group in one single attempt – a rare feat, those days – inhibited me writing the exam again for nearly four years. Only when the banks started awarding a salary increment for passing the CAIIB examination, I sat for clearing the one arrear paper, swallowing my pride, only to get the all-too-important thirty-rupees-a-month salary increment. And I passed, though I had only one-night preparation – much against my conscience - scoring just one mark above the minimum of 50 required to pass.
Failing is anathema to me.
I was inimical to any attempt to get a driving license in Dubai. Yet, one day, after eight years of my stay in Dubai, motivated by one of my colleagues, I enrolled myself for the driving test. I cleared the written test easily. I went with confidence for the first road test.
But, waiting for my name to be called, I suddenly developed cold feet.
‘What, if I fail?’
So, just before the test, I tried a few meditative relaxation techniques that I had learned, to contain my fear of failure. Probably, I went into a sleepy state that I went cold. I didn’t even notice that my name was being called by the inspector, for the road test.
A few minutes later, jolted by a rebuking call from the inspector, I rushed and sat in the test vehicle, along with three others. I was the second to be called.
Alas! I forgot all the fundamentals of proper driving (as per Dubai Traffic Department rules) and I sat frozen in the driver’s seat. (A similar thing had happened to me while writing my mathematics paper during the pre-board examination for my school finals, when I just managed to scrape through, though I scored 98% in the SSLC final examination.)
“Out…!” The inspector shouted by my side. “Talim…Talim…” (It means ‘go for the training again.’)
This time, I was more matured. A failure is not an end in life, I had realized. There is no prestige involved in one’s failure. Practice more. Practice makes one perfect. I recalled all the lessons I learned. I went for the training again and came back for the driving test after about three weeks.
Again, four of us got into the testing vehicle. Three in the back seat and one on the wheel, the inspector sitting in the front by the side of the driver. The three before me were failed. I was the last to be called to take the wheels. Thank God! That was a relief. The one-in-four formulae should work unless I drove awfully. I drove the vehicle the way I knew it. Finally, when we reached back the testing center he declared, ‘You pass.’
What a great relief! I got my driving license in Dubai. An achievement.
However, I never bought a vehicle in Dubai, and I managed my work the same way I had managed during the previous 8 years. Driving License was just a status symbol for me!
Failure No. 4
Finally, coming back to my recent experience of FEAR.
As I decided to take a driving license in the U.S, there was no escape from going through a driving test. Three weeks back, I procured a Driver License Manual from the department, immediately after registering myself as a candidate for the driving test. I went through the Manual book meticulously, at least, three times as though I was preparing for my college examination. I couldn’t afford to fail. ‘I can’t take chances with a written test.’
Thank God! I passed the written test with 22 right answers out of 24. (Minimum was 20 out of 24)
I signed up for the road driving test for the same day, quite confident that I would pass. Just to be sure, I practiced driving the car for about an hour before the test. I went for the test. I drove the vehicle as the inspector kept giving me instructions. The habits ingrained in my subconscious, resulting from my driving a car for more than 30 years back in India were hard to give up. In the end, the inspector failed me at least on two counts: failure to give indicator signals, using brakes too often and not sufficiently noticing the cross-traffic at the signals. He advised me to work on them again and come back. My pleading with him that I had a long, thirty-years-of-safe-driving-experience back in India, didn’t cut any ice with him.
Another appointment for the road test was fixed for the next Friday. I hardly got any opportunity to try my driving skills during the intervening time.
“What has changed?’ the lady inspector asked me, looking at my previous test result papers.
“Nothing,” I replied, soberly.
‘Let us see,’ was all she said, as she sat by my side and asked me to drive.
Turn left…turn right…go into the next road on the right…exit on your left…
I followed mechanically, butterfly in my stomach all the time, a kind of queasy feeling constantly unsettling me.
‘What, if I fail again?’ The usual fear of failure was churning my stomach.
I was afraid they could fail me again, regardless of my long safe driving experience back in India. In U.S, you must follow the rules, strictly as per books. Negative marks for every mistake. You cross a threshold limit, you fail.
I wanted the driving license desperately. I can’t fail! Not that, hell will break out if I don’t get it!
FEAR…FEAR…though I didn’t show it off. What is the use of my thirty years of driving experience, I cursed?
FEAR of not getting the driving license I desired to have!
When I drove the vehicle back to the testing center, as I killed the engine, I looked anxiously at the lady inspector to pronounce the four-letter word, I dreaded to hear.
But she said the other four letter word. ‘PASS.’
I felt as though a few pounds of weight was released from my abdomen, and my stomach suddenly became light. I desperately wanted to rush to a restroom.
So, I passed the driving test and I have a license now to drive in the U.S.
At my age 67, I felt it was almost impossible, not to feel FEAR at any age. One may transcend it with sufficient practice, but cannot avoid altogether the emotion of FEAR.