Numerous women in India ride on their two-wheeled motor vehicles every day and conquer the world in their own ways. From going to bazaars or stepping out to work, transport has always been more of a challenge for Indian women, than an ally. Especially in small towns, where public transport is limited to shared tempos and rickshaws, it is a big challenge to move around independently. Not everyone can afford a car or a cab to step out of the house.
While two-wheelers have been around in our country for decades, operating the geared version isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Kudos to women who rock at riding bikes and scooters, but for lesser beings like me, manoeuvring a geared two-wheeler was a complex issue. Till the gearless two-wheelers or popularly called scooty walked into my life.
Life for women, especially in small towns has never been the same since they laid their hands on these magical gearless two-wheelers.
I learnt to ride a gearless two-wheeler as soon as I acquired the legal age. After madcap attempts to ride a geared scooter and almost mauling down two unsuspecting cousins, good sense prevailed. Hence, my father loaned a gearless two-wheeler for me. What a liberating feeling it was, to ride that second-hand little beast, which refused to go over 30 kmph (much to the parents’ relief).
- Two wheelers for women have ended the dependency on public transport and male members of the family.
- Especially in small towns, where public transport is limited to shared tempos and rickshaws, women feel liberated with access to a two-wheeled vehicle.
- From dropping and picking kids from school to running your small business, two-wheelers are an inseparable and vital part of many women’s lives.
I didn’t have to slave on my bicycle anymore. I didn’t have to wait in the sweltering heat for an auto, every time mum dispatched me to market for errands. It is today that I realise that I have been riding a two-wheeler for half of my life now. I have switched from going to tuition to transporting my little one to school. Would life have been easier without it? Would I have managed to keep my first job as a dentist, at a clinic which was 15 km from my house, had I been solely dependent on well almost missing public transport services in Pune?
The two-wheeler revolution in India has liberated many women from every socio-economic stratum. Ladies wearing saree, salwar kameez or jeans, from every walk of life and from every age group use two-wheelers for a more independent and authoritative existence. They drop and pick their children at school. They commute to offices and meetings. In small towns, where public transport is irregular and scarce and even in big cities, where it is synonymous with groping and kickboxing your way through a swarm of passengers. They run errands, shop and live a part of their lives, without being dependent on anyone. And this sense of freedom does wonders to their personality.
I have seen women change with access to two-wheeled vehicles in small towns.
According to an article in the Times Of India, one in every four scooter buyers in India is a woman. Of this, some 64% of women buyers are under the age of 30.
Women who wouldn’t dare cross the male members of their family, now take an active part in the family business. Many women become financially independent because their families find it is okay for them to ride a two-wheeler to their workplace, but a public transport is a big no. They gain confidence when husbands thrust them with seemingly important jobs like queuing to pay electricity bills (not everyone does it online, even today) or making business deliveries.
Even women who operate small businesses from their houses, like tiffin centres, the two-wheeler is a convenience. It helps them run their business smoothly without having to fret over delivery. It gives them a sense of command on their business.
The two-wheeler revolution in India is the unsung hero for us women. It has given us wings, a way to bypass groping, teasing and endless long queues for public transport. A sense of autocracy and being in charge of your own journey. Which route to take, what place to stop, and where to turn – all things most of us are not privy to in our personal lives, thanks to our patriarchal society.
Photo Credit: Hindustan Times
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.