arunima dutta
Posted August 12, 2012 from India

Women climbing Mount Everest, or going into space or becoming President have all been gracefully accepted by the people. But a woman driving a car? Immediately, a strange camaraderie builds up among the general public and eyebrows are raised and knowing glances exchanged even among strangers.

My means of transport was limited to bus to school and I graduated to a Scooty when I joined college. It ferried me through my under-and-postgraduate days with all the turbulences and joys that came with those days. Even as I write about my Scooty, my heart warms up to the good old vehicle and my chest swells with pride. I never thought twice before riding it as it was not only easily manoeuvrable but also light in weight and easy to handle. I never doubted my ability to use it.

But good things seldom last long, and in came the car. The reason the car scored over my beloved vehicle was that it was more respectable (to be seen in it), gave protection from the sun (this was before the government ban on sun films), catered for more numbers as I was no longer alone, provided plenty of space, meaning more room for daily provisions, schoolbags, lunch bags and all the necessities which see me and my family through day-to-day life. The winning reason was that the EMIs plus fuel cost me less than the monthly autorickshaw fares. And, lo and behold, with so many benefits being offered on a platter, no one could see why I was hesitant to become IN-dependent. Now I could handle all the chores alone! Read—(nobody needs to lend me a helping hand.)

Now as I course through the day driving to and from school, my workplace and the market place, clutching and clinging to the steering wheel, trying to ignore the cacophony of horns around, I cannot help thinking why? The moment any motorist realises that the person behind the wheel is a woman he starts honking furiously. Why? Even a cyclist takes offence, if a woman driving a car overtakes him. He starts pedalling vigorously right in front of the car, making my heart skip many a beat and I finally not only slow down but give him headway lest I overtake him again and start a repeat of the sequences. And beware, if a state transport bus driver finds out that a woman is driving the car, that too ahead of him, he will scare her out of his way as if she is a menace to society.

Angry fists are shaken and glaring faces confront you for reasons that are hard to comprehend! Let me guess, being in the way though there is no place to budge up, not being fast enough, or, maybe, not being able to make myself disappear miraculously into thin air in the middle of a traffic jam.

And, I find myself thinking wistfully of those wonderful days when I would breeze through the city streets on my Scooty, when no one ever gave a second look! Only to be jolted awake from my daydream by another cacophony of horns.....

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