Driving in India for a woman is a roller coaster ride of emotions, ranging from a purely exhilarating sense of freedom to the downright frustration that accompanies typical female stereotypes.
Ever since I began testing my skills behind the wheel, I’ve been a subject to this beguiling dose of sound and sight (aka crude remarks and stares), suggesting it’s all your fault because ‘Hey, you’re a woman!’
I’ve been driving since the age of 18, and was a proud and financially independent owner of a car by the time I was 26. I have driven with my husband to Leh, and after treading safely through the rough Himalayan terrain, I can virtuously declare that I indeed am a skilled and responsible driver with good reflexes.
Yet, there is no escape once you are behind the wheels in the city. Whatever the situation might be, the cardinal rule stands the same- You’re a lady? Oh well, you’re the one at fault then. Always.
And God forbid if there show up any dents on the car, it is automatically assumed that I must be the one responsible for them, and not my husband, father or brother for that matter. I have been in situations where I have been hurled abuses for trying to drive safely amongst bellicose and reckless male drivers, or even pointing out to someone for their erratic parking, etc.
Has there ever been a scientific study that prejudices driving to be a gender oriented skill? As a matter of fact, I have seen more male drivers involved in unwarranted accidents- mostly due to rash, reckless and precarious driving.
And oh, I forgot to give a special mention to the ‘self-appointed body guards’, who will follow you all the way to your destination and make sure you’ve reached safe. Who cares how insecure and threatened it might make the woman feel?
Probably, it has something to do with testosterone and power. Men are generally more aggressive, and since they are the ones who have been driving since long lore, they tend to define ‘good driving’.
‘I got here in under 20 minutes, a new record!’ (Oh, of course I tailgated treacherously).
‘I only caught one red light all the way here!’ (I obviously accelerated dangerously to just make it through the yellows).
And any woman who does not conform to this male chauvinistic definition of good driving (which is rather well suited to their male counterparts) is sure to be labelled as a bad driver.
My opinion and experiences so far might be coming across as harsh, but I will also admit here that yes, not all men are aggressive, and not all women are good drivers. But is it fair to generalize and put all women in the same category?
All this said and done, there are certainly some perks to being a woman driver in India -traffic cops will generally leave you with a warning instead of a challan, and usually there is a beeline of guys willing to help in case of a breakdown. 🙂
So all’s not that bad either! 🙂
This driving dairy has been narrated by Swati Jain to JaipurCityPost as part of our series To Be A Lady Driver in Jaipur.