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Learning to drive was necessary for this young mother who does not want her daughter to feel that her mother depends upon her father for everything!
I have always been a bit jealous of women who drive. To me they all looked so confident, so independent, so in-charge of their lives!
While I have done my fair share of cycling, my parents were never too keen on me riding a scooter/bike. Growing up in a middle-class home of the 90s, in Chennai, meant that often we had to depend on public transport, especially because my dad was mostly away from home on out of town postings. Even though my mother herself worked at a bank, she has never learnt to either ride a scooter or drive a car. I know that this is one of her regrets in life and she has many a time sighed and exclaimed, “If only I knew to drive…” There have been many instances when the rickshaw wala failed to show up for the morning school run, and we desperately tried to spot cars which had kids in my school uniform inside for a lift (We lived close to my school, so there were a steady stream of such vehicles although not many stopped for us).
In this day and age, I do believe that knowing to drive is more of an essential life skill than a novelty, even though women drivers are banned in certain out-dated parts of the world. In fact I have even seen job adverts which specifically state that a driving license would be an added advantage. And let’s not even get started on the regular sexual harassment that happens so commonly in our public buses – that alone is enough to put one off public buses.
So when I passed out of college, I enrolled for driving lessons and managed to get my driving license. As everyone is well aware, getting a license in India is really no big deal. Actually driving on the roads is a whole different story altogether! I made a few half-hearted attempts at driving our own car but I found it too overwhelming and eventually just gave up. My dream of going on long car drives with my favourite songs playing in the background remained just that – a dream.
Fast forward to a decade later, and I found myself signing up for driving lessons yet again, this time in a different country. Again I found it all really confusing. But this time I was determined. You see, this time I was a mother. Many a times when I sat clutching the steering wheel of the learner’s vehicle with sweaty palms, wondering why I’m putting myself through this stress, I thought of my little daughter.
It seemed as though I was always requesting my husband to take us here or there – and it didn’t help, that many of the things that I wanted to do or places that I wanted to go to weren’t of much interest to him. He would take us along just to oblige me of course, but I could sense that he was bored. Further, weekends and evenings are always the rush hour. Also, things were so much more peaceful and manageable (not to mention cheaper) at off peak times especially when one was on the go with a little human in tow. What’s more, I found that many mother & child events tended to happen during the day time on weekdays, which meant that my husband could definitely not play chauffeur.
I wanted to have the freedom to be able to take my daughter out and about on our timings instead of waiting for the next free slot in my husband’s schedule; I wanted to be able to go have picnics at the park with her, I wanted to be able to go build sand castles at the beach with her, I wanted to be able to visit libraries and explore new neighbourhoods with her, I wanted the freedom to show her the world without having to depend on my husband – or anyone else.
Hey you could always take the bus I hear you say. Well, it’s just that we live in a small town where public transport isn’t too great. Taxis on a regular basis turn out to be too expensive. But more importantly, I also wanted my daughter to see that her mother was a capable and self-sufficient woman who can go about her business by herself, instead of sitting at home waiting for appa to come and ferry us about.
Here I was, already becoming a part of the stereotype where the man brings home the bacon and the wife keeps house. For sure, my daughter wasn’t going to see her mother rushing off to a conference dressed smartly in a business suit, even though that was who I was once upon a time. But I’ll be damned if she gets this idea that women are only good enough to take care of home.
I want her to see that women can do anything that they set their minds to. I want her to see that the hands which dress her up, the hands that cook her favourite meal, the hands that wipe up spills and messes can also control the steering wheel with élan.
They say gender equality begins at home. I want to set an example for my daughter. I haven’t yet reached my goal fully but I will get there even if it means practising daily. You see, I want my daughter to see for herself – and know – that despite all those sexist jokes about women drivers, driving is not just a man’s forte. I want her to see – and believe – that she can be as much a badass driver as anyone else, gender notwithstanding.
Image source: vimeo
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Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even
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