Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ladies' Driving Agency

A number of my posts here focus on women, and what empowers/disempowers them. As I was driving to do some chores yesterday, I realized that driving, or being able to drive, is such an important source of power. It gives you the ability to do things, go places, get stuff done, without relying on anybody else! I love driving in the US, with Hindi songs blaring in my car, as I sing along loudly (and often get strange glares). It gives me a feeling of empowerment, ability, control!

It is almost essential to drive in the US, as public transport is often not very time efficient. Sometimes, it does not even exist, and a car is the only option. However, this is fast becoming the case in India as well. Driving yourself gives you so much power to do things on your own, you don't have to wait for unreliable drivers to show up, or get groceries or even go meet friends. Even though one can always take a rickshaw/auto, it is often safer to have one's own transportation.

Yes, driving gives us all Agency, men and women alike. Agency, that one thing that most Indian women have to fight for, or live without. So all of you out there who drive- what are your stories? I was chaperoned by my mother, who would sit in the back seat for all my driving lessons. After all, I could not be allowed alone with a strange man, even if all he wanted to do was finish his driving lesson quickly and go to his next paying customer.

Isn't that true? For every triumph that Indian women make- be it as small as learning to drive, or going swimming (yes, I was chaperoned for that too), there is a small fight, a small victory or a small surrender. That is what life is as an Indian girl/woman, a series of victories and surrenders, against a society and a culture that does not believe in women's agency.

For all that, I'm grateful I learned to drive. And learned to swim. Because I don't need somebody to drive me everytime I need to go get some groceries. Or get some clothes, get a pedicure, get a life. I can drive and get it on my own!


Psych Babbler said...

I actually didn't learn to drive until I came to Australia. So when I did, it was with a male driving instructor (who looked like Santa Claus) and just me in the car or my then partner once he was confident enough I could drive a bit. :P

As for swimming, well, I was grateful to be able to learn that when younger. I had an instructor who was horrendous...I cried and screamed and my mum actually didn't wait anywhere around the pool at the time. However, when I chose to then learn on my own, my mum would be around.

I am grateful to be able to both drive and swim and do reckon it's so very important. Funny this is, I noticed many Indian women here being driven around by husbands/partners and giving me strange looks for driving alone...when women in India have done that for a while! I know my mum has known to drive and has done so without my dad very often

Rachna said...

@PB- Yes, driving is so very important. I have noticed Indian women here (in the US) who are also driven around by husbands, be they going shopping, groceries etc. And I'm half envious, half-irritated. Then I realize that I would hate it for my husband to come along for my interminable shopping trips (not because I shop a lot, but because I take about 2 hours to pick one thing). I like taking my time to select stuff! And so envy washes away :-) said...

Couldn't agree more. The I learnt driving and realized the perks it came with, I could almost feel wings growing beneath my shoulders. The sense of empowerment it gives is unmatched

blessedsoul said...

I couldn't agree more. The ability to drive sets you free from the bondage of dependence. Waiting to be picked, dropped off to places of one's choice which might be of least interest to the person who is driving (husband/partners in most cases in the US with). It is a liberation.

That said, although i enjoy the perks of being able to drive, i do miss my days of using public transportation. The fun of people watching and reading while being transported.

Swimming: ahh i am envious of those who can and i wish i could:)

Rachna said...

@beyondwoman- yes, the ability to drive is so important now! 'The wings beneath your shoulders' is a very good analogy!!

@blessedsoul - thanks! Public transport is good for people watching, i agree. And it always helped me get ready on time, since I could not afford the miss the bus at the exact time. But it takes up so much time.
You know, but I think some husbands really like taking their wives places/ shopping etc. Though these might be a very rare breed ;-)

Marvis Carswell said...

It's good that everyone in the family knows how to drive so they can do things on their own whenever they need to. At times they are left at home and are left helpless if they ever need to go somewhere to do something important.

Marvis Carswell

Rachna said...

@Marvis- yes, totally! Everybody needs to know how to drive, so that they are not helpless!