Put the pedal to the metal, man!

We remember the Red Sea trip for many reasons – the extremely long drive in the summer heat, the superb road through the beautiful and ever-changing desert landscape. And then the lush greenery of the hill station of Abha, which came like ice cold relief after driving under the harsh glare of the sun for over 12 hours! And of course, we remember it for my ’beizzati on the beach’! It had dented my image badly. “Uncle Sundar in an abaya?!” For hours later the kids were giggling and making silly jokes. But we will remember the trip for another reason too.

The drive back home was long but the roads through the desert were simply fantastic. There was absolutely no traffic either way. We had rented two relatively new Toyota Camrys for the trip and I was able to step on the gas. I was much younger then and fond of speed. The needle was constantly on 140 kmph, way past the 120 kmph limit. I had done higher speeds before, once burning off the radiator of an older Nissan Altima.

And now the needle was creeping up….150 kms per hour, 160, 170 and then 180! The 200 kmph mark on the odometer was tempting me, beckoning me, daring me reach it. But the brain is very strong and has inbuilt protective mechanisms – it doesn’t easily allow you to do foolish things beyond a point. I tried and tried with all my might but my right foot would just not cooperate and go down further on the accelerator!

The kids and one couple were in the car with me and my wife. They were in a high state of excitement, thrilled and screaming and jumping around in the back seat as my speed inched upwards and we raced past sand dunes at blistering speed. The passing desert was a blur of sand. By the time I was on 170 the kids were delirious with joy. But when I reached 180 with great difficulty, suddenly everybody became quiet. They could probably feel my tension as I strove determinedly to increase speed. Controlling a car at that speed requires a great deal of physical strength and complete concentration. This car was just about a year old so it was able to take the strain. My arms were aching and my right leg had turned to stone, refusing to obey me as I tried to press down on the gas pedal. I don’t think anybody was breathing. All eyes were on the odometer.

I don’t know how long I fought with the accelerator, 10 minutes maybe, 15 maybe. It was like arm wrestling. Km by km it crept up. I would make a Herculean effort and it would grudgingly move a km but refuse to move after that while I pushed and fought for the next one. I was sweating like a pig, not even sure whether I was looking at the road, maybe only in my peripheral vision. It would go up a few kms, and then my leg or my brain would chicken out and my speed would drop. And the battle would start again.

After what seemed an eternity, I hit 200! The kids let out a scream and all the other adults let out their breaths. I was holding on to the steering wheel for dear life. I felt as if the car was flying, it was not on the road, we were all flying. Speed is a thrill, a high like no other.

It was only a short time, maybe a minute at the most. Luckily, the car stayed together. After that, I think my vision shifted fully to the road and in a flash the speed started dropping automatically. But the thing is, after that, 180 felt like a breeze! We made it back home in quick time but more importantly, in one piece. If anything had gone wrong at that speed, you would have had to scrape us off the road with a spoon! But when you are young, that is the last thing on your mind! But the best thing was, the kids forgot about the abaya. My izzat was restored! Uncle Sundar was now their hero!

As an aside, in the first few months of arriving in the US, I was
caught doing 95mph on a 65mph highway by a cop hiding in a bush. He slammed with a $225 fine! That was the last time I broke the speed limit in my life. In the US, the cops and their darn radars are everywhere!

Forget driving like that, it makes me shudder to even think of it now. I’m so terrified of driving in Bangalore I haven’t even bought a car. What a comedown!

The only needle that is moving up now is age…..

Let this not remain a one-way conversation! Your opinions are welcome, especially if you don't agree!!