Saudi women got to drive legally in their country for the first time on 24th June, 2018. A momentous day for women living in a deeply conservative country and society. I read this article on Time this morning about women cabbies and loved reading the thoughts and views of women who drove for the first time. A young lady cabbie whose grinning picture is shared makes me feel so happy. A huge leap forward for a country that went from women with no right to drive to women cabbies! A lady drove her own dad out and there were another who celebrated by showering rose petals on every intersection she crossed. J Lovely, isn’t it? Happy that the 32-year-old Crown Prince finally gave them this right. In every patriarchal society, we need ‘feminist’ men to usher in the real change on the ground. Of course, there was much lobbying and activism by women globally that culminated into this.
Personally, I love to drive. Yes, despite chaotic traffic, I do love driving. I learnt to drive right after I completed my post graduation. I also dragged my younger brother along to the driving classes. My first instructor was an old chap from a driving school in Ahmedabad. Initially I was mortified. So many what ifs in my mind. I remember hating to be the first person at a traffic light. When you are a new driver, you mess up the first gear starts bringing the car to a halt and stopping traffic. Angry honks panic you. I remember once, I was driving the car on a slope and had to stop on the top. I did not know back then that I had to use the hand brake in such situations. While I was stuck there, a helpful male walked over to me and explained how to move the car forward. I was so grateful to him.
Once I locked the steering wheel in my car. I was parked in an open parking lot on a busy street and my brother was with me. Both of us had no clue what to do. We did not have mobiles back then. My brother went around looking for a payphone to call dad. That’s when I saw about 3-4 young men on bikes who were standing and chatting closeby. I approached them and one of them got into the car, showed me how to disengage the steering wheel and started it for me. All in a day’s work! All lessons on the road. Trust me, people are very helpful. That has been my experience. And all these bloopers are so amusing when you look back now.
I’ve been driving for 20 years now. My first car was my dad’s trusty old Maruti 800 that I drove with pride to my office. I was the only woman who drove a car to work back then and I felt very kicked about it. All the other cars belonged to men. 🙂 Women rode scooties (Ahmedabad!) From driving a very basic car to driving a dreamy sedan in the US, driving a car gave me a rush. It gives you freedom that is immeasurable. Umpteen occasions when the husband was traveling and as a young mum, I had no trouble ferrying the kids around day or night. I went to my doctor’s appointments driving myself till very close to delivery date. All those calls from school when a kid was sick, yes it made me feel calmer to drive. Yes, we have the Ubers and Olas today. And they are very useful. But, they can never substitute the joy and independence I experience driving my own car.
Now, I see a lot of women driving. Yet, I know an equal number who want to drive but do not have the support of their husbands. Yes, that’s a thing even in today’s times. Some men are concerned about the ‘safety’ of their wives because well you know women are bad drivers. My experience is that women are safer drivers, by and large. I am sick of hearing this but I keep quiet. It’s not my battle to fight. It makes me sad though.
Here’s to all women and a hope that women everywhere will have the choice to do everything that a man can do. Feminism is not about fighting men. It is fighting for equal rights to lead a life of dignity and choice. Hope all of us women continue to strive to achieve all our dreams and aspirations. Change may be slow, very slow at times, but it does come as it has to the women in Saudi Arabia.
If you are a woman, do you enjoy driving? If you are a man, do you encourage your wife, mother, sister or daughter to drive?
Pics courtesy: Featured pic By Kdonmuang
Pin Pic By MilanMarkovic78, both on Shutterstock.