Confession Time: I don’t know how to drive a four-wheeler. Tell me, who needs a four-wheeler in Bengaluru only to get stuck in the infamous traffic? You can’t even manoeuvre it like a two-wheeler in the peak-hour traffic of Hosur Road. Fine, I agree, this might be a sour grapes kind of excuse.
The real reason behind my decision (or rather indecision) to have not learnt to drive a four-wheeler even as I cross the mid-20s threshold, has to do with my previous experience with driving schools. The ordeal I went through has left me unenthused about the whole prospect where the instructor is either so disinterested that he just mumbles clutch, brake, accelerator and expects you to become an expert, or is so rough around the edges in his “instruction” that holding a steering wheel becomes the stuff of nightmares. Moreover, most of the driving schools I have come across rarely have a comprehensive methodology of instruction.
As someone who always strives to strike a balance between theory and practice, I wanted to know everything there is to know before getting on the road. I was afraid that, more than my life, I would be responsible for someone else’s too. One misstep and someone pays the price. Yet, the amount of importance placed on the aspect of mutual responsibility derived from studying transport rules is often minimal.
However, I was in for a surprise when I got to visit Maruti Driving School, near St.John’s Medical College, Koramangala.
As I entered their premises the first thing that caught my eye was the large open space, with slots for parking.
I was later told by Manjunath P, manager at the school, pointing at the yellow lines, that the space is used to teach the students how to park within those drawn boundaries. Arguably, one of the trickiest parts of driving.
Overtime, you might become an expert at moving forward, but using that reverse gear to pull yourself to the prescribed space is an art that needs to be mastered with skill. In an age when new driving schools are mushrooming in a mere 100 sq.ft of space, Maruti Driving School stands apart from its competition for delivering what its customers need: confidence. Confidence that they can drive on the roads that might disappear after a heavy shower, confidence that they will be able to face the onslaught of erratic drivers, confidence in handling themselves at the onslaught of unpredictable weather and traffic conditions.
Maruti Driving School makes sure that you’re learning and are on the path to progress through careful keeping of records.
Upon enrolment, students are given a kit, which includes a progress card — something that cannot be found in any of the driving schools in the city.
There’s a row of activities including Emergency Stops, Round about, Parallel Parking, against which your progress will be marked.
I don’t know about you, but tracking my improvements and mishaps really helps me. Additionally, there is one more record in the car, where the students give feedback on the instructors. This two-way feedback loop demonstrates how driving needs to be approached.
Secondly, there is a strict driving module that is followed much like any other college syllabus.
The Beginner’s course is a 21-day, 21-hour course, which is made up of 7 hours of theory, 2.5 hours of simulation (five 30-hour sessions) and 10 hours of practicals.
However, they aren’t taught in chunks but simultaneously. After two hours of theory class, you’re allowed to sit in a simulator. If you have zero road sense, the simulator helps you get acquainted with the basics of driving as well as prepare you before you get on to the actual road. The five stages of simulations S1, S2, T3, T4, and T5 will teach you simple manoeuvre like moving and stopping (S1) to navigating in high traffic situation (T5).
But the novice in you can relax, as you’re subjected to traffic navigation simulations (T-series) only after four theory classes.
In fact, the focus on strengthening fundamental theory is demonstrated by the exams conducted at the end of the course, so that students are aware of the rules and regulations as per Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
This includes details about the fine levied if you do not wear a seatbelt or don’t have an ‘L’ marked on your windshield, among others.
You are also provided with a handbook outlining these rules and signposts in detail, so that even if you forget them, there’s something handy to remind you of your responsibilities.
While at the Driving School, I got to talk to one of the customers, Abhinaya.
“It is too good. It’s my second time over here. I have done my Learner’s License (LL). I’m coming for the advanced course here.”
Coming from Ejipura, Abhinaya was all smiles as she was explaining to me how content she was with the service. One particular aspect of the service she mentioned, made my introvert heart leap with joy: During practical classes, there’s no one apart from the instructor and you. That is, no prying eyes from the back seat making you nervous; you can completely concentrate on the learning. Such one-on-one focus is rarely found in other driving schools, as per my experience. So, if you’re like me and hate to be observed by strangers, Maruti Driving School is perfect for you.
Moreover, they have a 24X7 line open — if you have to reschedule your classes or have run into some difficulty while driving, help is just a call away. The 24X7 open line is instituted taking into consideration all customers, including those who do late night and early morning shifts and might not be able to contact them in a typical 9-to-5 window.
In fact, since their escalation matrix is well-defined, you can always know where your complaints and concerns have reached and be assured that they are always heard.
Additionally, Maruti Driving School understands that driving is a holistic process. Now that you know how to operate a car, it doesn’t mean you have learnt all that is there to driving. Maruti Suzuki makes sure you also learn the mechanical aspects of driving a car, including oil and AC checks, and changing the tyres of a car.
Teaching a driver these service aspects of a car makes him more responsible towards the car as well as himself.
It is not surprising that every month more than 100 customers enroll at the school’s Koramangala branch.
As I mentioned earlier, visiting Maruti Driving School made me realize that my sweeping binary assertion that learning driving is either a dreary or a horrifying affair may have been too premature.