“Beta, don’t you think you should travel by cab?” my dad ventured, hesitant at first, firm later and positively, relentless thereafter. I had been listening to him and my mother moan and crib about their precious daughter driving a massive Tata Safari around the city on a daily basis, for more than two years now.
It also doesn’t help that after successfully manoeuvring my car all the way from ITPL to Kormangala three times a week during peak hours, for two years has still not instilled enough trust in my parents to take a 3km ride with me.
Every single time I venture to take them shopping or other chores, relentlessly at first, firm later and then hesitantly thereafter, they respond as if I have suggested taking them to a brothel.
The vehemence in their voice when they say, “Nahee! We are not taking your car. We would rather go by cab.” makes me believe that they probably think I run over three men and two kids every time I take my car out. And the only reason I am not rotting in prison or hell; is because of the Thursday fasts and pujas that my mom religiously keeps.
Having witnessed such lack of faith, for so long, I began contemplating; Why?! Why such distrust for women drivers, especially for the ones who drive an SUV?
Lets get this straight, people still need a lot of conditioning to get used to a woman driving. The ones, who actually are used to women driving, expect her to be in a hatchback, not a sedan, definitely not an SUV, and God help her if she dares to drive a jeep.
Because she is a woman, and of course she would look good in, you know, those cute little Japanese toy cars that are electric blue, green, or white, or yellow. If it is a pink Reva, it is even better. All those post retirement uncles and aunties would give you looks of approval, even smile at you and call you “Beta.”
I, once had one of those post retirement uncles, taking a walk in the residential society that I live in, stare at me right from the time I drove in to the time I parked my car. The stare carried such vehemence and disapproval, I almost panicked that I had run over a stray animal. Or maybe he thought, I was a terrorist, carrying ISIS weapons into a residential complex. The stare even continued until I stepped out of the car and walked into my building.
Let’s talk about what happens when a man takes a U-Turn v/s a woman taking a U-Turn on a narrow road. The traffic waits, patiently waits for a man driving an SUV to take a couple of reverses, adjust the car perfectly and then zoom, zoom, zoom away.
When a woman driving an SUV does the same, there is not just one blast of horn, but every single vehicle behind, be it a car or an auto or a bike, honk continuously, persistently, one after another and when they finally overtake the SUV, they ensure that the woman is benefitted by a dirty look, maybe even have a finger pointed at her.
I once had a young man travelling by auto, carrying a laptop bag, smirk at me when I was trying to take a U-turn at an especially narrow road.
When I drive cross-country, all those Swifts and Santros driven by boys, follow me peacefully until the driver behind realizes that it is a woman driving. Suddenly they can’t wait to overtake; constant horns, overtaking from left, right, under my car, over my car, they try everything possible. Sometimes I am benevolent and I let them go, only to be graced with leering gestures from all those boys.
Well, yeah, you overtook an SUV driven by a woman, doesn’t make you any more of a man, you know!
I don’t even want to begin talking about, those cab drivers and their completely distasteful harassment. Lately I have started carrying a knife in my dashboard, I show it to those on the road that dare to think they can mess with me because I am a woman. And I do tend to rev up just to get the message across that I am not beyond running you over. Only because my mom fasts on Thursdays and does enough pujas to keep me off jail time.
Why just the other day I was driving my other car, a Mahindra Thar. I had a male colleague sitting next to me.
And at a signal this little boy on a scooter turns to his dad, who was riding it and says, “See Daddy, a girl is driving a Jeep.”
His dad winced and responded, “Yes, that man sitting next to her is teaching her to drive.”
Wow, accepting that a woman drives a big car was almost like swallowing elephant droppings for that father.
As I write this, I am honestly absolutely sick and tired of repetitive words like roads, U-turns, horns and gestures. Some of them don’t even have alternatives in thesaurus. Plus it is hard to remain angry on people I am not going to see again, probably ever, except my parents of course.
So, I honestly hope someday, roads will be harassment free for women, and someday I can drive my parents around without them thinking I am taking them to a brothel.
Until then, I will continue to drive my big cars, and the people on the roads, better get used to it.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.