How can you not know how to ride a bicycle? a man once asked me. What kind of a feminist are you? The kind of feminist who takes public transport! I said. I feel freest when I can get about on trains and cabs, by myself.
Many women like that. Maria, a 42-year-old senior analyst from Bengaluru, just moved jobs. People keep saying to her she must be so happy that her commute is down by an hour. Maria isnt. That hour of commute was my me-time between home and work. This leisure is writ large even in the sweaty sardine tin of the Mumbai local ladies compartment. Women chat, play video games, read, eat cheap idlis, buy hair clips, chop veggies, mend clothes, fight for space, are lost in thought or music or texting smiles. Some strategise for the spot near the door where you gaze at the horizon, hair and chunni flying, like Hema Malini, hawa ke saath saath, ghata ke sangh sangh.
I still feel awed that the Delhi Metro lets you come home late, something I never did through college, or tweet your people-watching observations.
That the citys buses allow working class women in a country where womens participation in the workforce has been steadily dropping the possibility of travelling free.
I took the DTC bus to college. I expected to be molested, although not as much as I was one day when six men did not let me get off at my stop and everyone laughed at my terror.
But I did not stop taking the bus or going to college. Those were the available choices.
Most women learned to drive as soon as they could to avoid the bus. They saved for two-wheelers and second-hand cars to resist family pressure to go everywhere accompanied because duniya is kharaab.
Angela, a young woman I knew, gave tuition to put herself through college. She walked everywhere and was always exhausted and late. Finally she saved up enough for a second-hand bicycle, fittingly called Devil.
She compensated for its missing bell by whistling to ask people to make way. Her smile became broader, her dreams bigger. Today she is an FM radio jockey. In my 2002 film Unlimited Girls, I interviewed Kanchan Gawre, Bombays first woman taxi driver. She chose to drive a taxi, to augment the family income, over homebound options of pickle- and papad-making. I love driving fast, she said, as I clutched the dashboard for support.
Look, if you want to go slow, you can take a bus, right? Greta lived on the ground floor of my tenement building, in a cloud of aata dust from dozens of chapatis.
Money from her husband in the Gulf had dwindled so she had begun making dabbas, delivering tiffins on foot.
Finally she saved enough for a moped and zoomed about precariously, vegetables hanging from the handlebar, offering me lifts which I timidly declined. Years later, I ran into her on a scooter, in sparkly gold jewellery.
Dont you look grand! I exclaimed. Yes, sweetheart, Im doing very well, she said. Greta Lambretta, as I think of her, had become Bombays only womens driving instructor for two-wheelers. Her photo album of students included grandmoms, modish teens, ladies in salwar kameez .
The male fantasy of a liberated woman on wheels is always a biker chick, grumbled a writer friend. But in truth, the abiding image of freedom are these women on two-wheelers and little cars. Whether it is the women of Puddukotai bicycling in saris, fetching water, dropping kids, going to work, or Saira Bano in a cherry-print shirt with her girl gang, singing, Main chali main chali, dekho pyaar ki gali, or women at smalltown traffic signals, covered head to toe against pollution and tanning.
Yet, for women, these measured personal freedoms, like the grudging, guilt-laden concessions of private family life and the unpredictable progress and minimisations of public life, are still a topography of watchfulness and inhibition.
In Dorothy Wenners documentary about the Mumbai ladies special train, a woman demonstrates things they must mind when boarding the train. Secure your pallu. Tuck your bag tight under your arm. Put your mangalsutra between your teeth so it cant be snatched in the melee.
I could add, squeeze every last drop of pee out before you leave home. Drink very little water till you have loo access. Wear a scarf to cover your breasts. Keep your elbows close to your body to prevent groping. Dont park in a deserted spot. Dont forget to fill petrol in case you get stranded at night. You get habituated to those wheels constantly turning in your mind, busy wresting the freedom to be a person, forgetting your worst fears.
Then one day some worst fear comes true. A young woman in Unnao is raped and burned to death. A vet in Hyderabad finds her scooter tyre punctured, is abducted, raped and killed. Uber admits it has had thousands of reports of sexual violence. You forget to forget your fear even as you persist with living your life.
Like many women who cannot drive, I frequently dream that I am driving a car or riding a bicycle. In these dreams, I am constantly, predictably, trying to escape from some predicament or save myself from some danger. After all, who else is going to?
- The Presidential Medal of Freedom: Its Just So Beautiful - RushLimbaugh.com - February 9th, 2020
- Both Freedom teams clinch NWC titles they hope to win outright next week - Morganton News Herald - February 9th, 2020
- Democracy and freedom of expression are under threat in Brazil - The Guardian - February 9th, 2020
- The Classic Novel That Saw Pleasure as a Path to Freedom - The New York Times - February 9th, 2020
- U.S. Launches The First-Ever International Religious Freedom Alliance - Forbes - February 9th, 2020
- You Will Find Your Freedom : Has Netflix Renewed Season 3 of OA? - Union Journalism - February 9th, 2020
- Bloomberg has thoughts on press freedom; the other candidates should give us theirs, too | TheHill - The Hill - February 9th, 2020
- Poetry, Walls and Freedom - The Wire - February 9th, 2020
- The latest assault on freedom of the press | TheHill - The Hill - February 9th, 2020
- Azaadiphobia: Who is Afraid of Freedom and Why - NewsClick - February 9th, 2020
- The Most Abused Freedom of Information Act Exemption Still Needs to Be Reined In - Project On Government Oversight - February 9th, 2020
- Freedom unifies the soul: Trump's State of the Union speechwriters have thrown in the towel - The Guardian - February 9th, 2020
- Trump says he will award Rush Limbaugh with Medal of Freedom - msnNOW - February 9th, 2020
- Case of Freedom Trail guides headed to the NLRB - The Boston Globe - February 9th, 2020
- Freedom Project: Play highlights civil rights perspective of black women - Meridian Star - February 9th, 2020
- Arts Wave partners with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to celebrate Black History Month. - WLWT Cincinnati - February 9th, 2020
- Taking the Freedom Out of Freelancing - Foundation for Economic Education - Foundation for Economic Education - February 9th, 2020
- The freedom Bobby Hurley gives to players is often criticized, but it might end up saving ASU's season - The Athletic - February 9th, 2020
- The basis of freedom - SC Times - February 9th, 2020
- The freedom in not knowing - The Boston Globe - January 30th, 2020
- 3 things you need to know about Birmingham's proposed Freedom Walk - Bham Now - January 30th, 2020
- Support school choice and empower families with educational freedom - Washington Examiner - January 30th, 2020
- Huber, Freedom want one more shot at wrestling in their own gym - lehighvalleylive.com - January 30th, 2020
- Freedom of Speech Doesn't Mean You Have to Be a Jerk Online - catcountry1073.com - January 30th, 2020
- No to Trump's apartheid plan. Yes to freedom and justice for the Palestinians - Haaretz - January 30th, 2020
- The True Cost Of Freedom Gas - Yahoo Finance - January 30th, 2020
- The long road to freedom - a giraffe is on the lam in Thailand - News965 - January 30th, 2020
- How An Enslaved Woman Sued And Won Her Freedom In 18th-Century Massachusetts - WBUR - January 30th, 2020
- Collings Foundation and FAA agree to temporary grounding of Wings of Freedom vintage planes - FOX61 Hartford - January 30th, 2020
- Sports: A Battlefield for Freedom of Expression and Political Change - besacenter.org - January 30th, 2020
- Jon Moxley '1000 percent' reinvigorated by creative freedom in All Elite Wrestling - WKYC.com - January 30th, 2020
- Melissa Martin: What happens when freedom of the press is silenced? - Cleburne Times-Review - January 1st, 2020
- Bagram's Afghan music night is the American base's other 'sound of freedom' - Stars and Stripes - January 1st, 2020
- Theros: Beyond Death Previews - Glimpse of Freedom and Sweet Oblivion MTG Arena Zone - MTG Arena Zone - January 1st, 2020
- Invest in Freedom: Support the Washington Monthly - Washington Monthly - January 1st, 2020
- Alabama's 200 years in 200 images: Freedom fighting from Iwo Jima to Selma - AL.com - January 1st, 2020
- Letter: Choice is simple freedom or slavery? - Northwest Herald - January 1st, 2020
- STORIES OF THE DECADE: Freedom boys hoops rallies to win 2013-14 state title at buzzer - Morganton News Herald - January 1st, 2020
- Freedom of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation - Royal Caribbean Blog - January 1st, 2020
- Ring in the New Year with Freedom Soup: Recipe - FOX 29 News Philadelphia - January 1st, 2020
- OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media welcomes release of Aseev and Halaziuk - Ukrinform. Ukraine and world news - January 1st, 2020
- STORIES OF THE DECADE: Freedom girls go perfect in 2015-16 for programs 5th title - Morganton News Herald - January 1st, 2020
- Press freedom situation yet to be satisfactory: FNJ - Khabarhub - January 1st, 2020
- Freedom of the Seas 2019 Live Blog - Preview - Royal Caribbean Blog - January 1st, 2020
- Freedom from 3Cs - The Indian Express - January 1st, 2020
- Freedom, Real Dividend of Democracy - THISDAY Newspapers - January 1st, 2020
- Economic freedom, not government programs, the key to poverty reduction - Orange County Register - Daily Gaming Worlld - January 1st, 2020
- Freedom Synonyms, Freedom Antonyms | Thesaurus.com - December 27th, 2019
- Byrne: Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to "stop forcing their ungodly, un-American views down our throats" - alreporter.com - December 27th, 2019
- Western Balkans Have Yet to Embrace Freedom of Information - Balkan Insight - December 27th, 2019
- Video: King Willem-Alexander addresses the Dutch public on Christmas Day, stressing the importance of freedom - Royal Central - December 27th, 2019
- Freedom to offend is a right and essential to democracy, says outgoing press watchdog chairman - The Sun - December 27th, 2019
- Of Concerns and Waivers: Religious Freedom and US Interests in Central Asia - The Diplomat - December 27th, 2019
- Climate tariffs on fracked molecules of freedom: German think tank wants to punish US for sanctions against Nord Stream 2 - RT - December 27th, 2019
- Weekly Wrap: Winter Solstice celebrations and responses | Freedom From Religion Foundation - Patheos - December 27th, 2019
- 'Freedom for All': Enes Kanter finally allowed to travel outside the U.S. for game - The Globe and Mail - December 27th, 2019
- The Colorado Springs Gazette: Happy Hanukkah, a celebration of freedom - coloradopolitics.com - December 27th, 2019
- True freedom is learning to love yourself | Opinion | Pittsburgh - PGH City Paper - December 27th, 2019
- Freedom Of Assembly - The Nation - December 27th, 2019
- A Trump sweatshirt and some thoughts on freedom - LancasterOnline - December 27th, 2019
- To Pay For The Freedom Dividend, Andrew Yang Says Our Mental State Matters To The Math - Forbes - December 27th, 2019
- Freedom Township man arrested after excessive speeds on motorcyle - Record-Courier - December 26th, 2019
- It's Official: 'Freedom Gas' Is the Worst Phrase of the Year - Gizmodo - December 26th, 2019
- In Punjab, the Legacy of the Ghadar Movement Continues to Inspire the Fight for Justice - The Wire - December 26th, 2019
- The Times view on freedom of speech: Taking Offence - The Times - December 26th, 2019
- Students at elite Shanghai university protest the removal of "freedom of thought" from the school charter - Boing Boing - December 21st, 2019
- Why Freedom Gas Was Voted The Worst Phrase Of The Year - OilPrice.com - December 21st, 2019
- Review: Wing Freedom e-bike wins style points and it works great, too! - Electrek - December 21st, 2019
- Explained: Reading Bangladesh provisions for citizenship and freedom of religion - The Indian Express - December 21st, 2019
- Tennessee football: Vols now have freedom to target top 2020 prospects - All for Tennessee - December 21st, 2019
- Andrew Yang: 'If we had a freedom dividend, I would not be the only candidate of color on the stage' - USA TODAY - December 21st, 2019
- My shortwave radio still speaks of freedom | Comment - The Times - December 21st, 2019
- Chinese University Drops 'Freedom of Thought' From Charter - Inside Higher Ed - December 19th, 2019
- Freedom, Peace, and Justice: The Surprising Success of Sudan's Glorious Revolution - Just Security - December 19th, 2019
- The Gift of Fire: The Purpose of Capital as Freedom - Nonprofit Quarterly - December 19th, 2019
- Fuel the Fight for Reason, Individualism and Freedom - New Ideal - December 19th, 2019
- Top Chinese Universities Amend Charters to Remove Reference to Freedom - Radio Free Asia - December 19th, 2019
- Leading Chinese university drops 'freedom of thought' from charter - Bangkok Post - December 19th, 2019
- Jeff Bezos Freedom's Wings Award Highlights the Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards - PRNewswire - December 19th, 2019
- POV: Trump's Executive Order Aimed at Protecting Jews Will Have a Chilling Effect on Freedom of Speech at Colleges - BU Today - December 19th, 2019