Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saudi Arabia - A drivethrough!

This week, most people have been talking about how the 17 of June marked a turning point in the lives of repressed Saudi women! Given how almost all of the Middle East of late has been showing impressive implementations of the legendary domino/ snowballing effect, it cones as no surprise that one bold woman taking to the streets in a car sparked off a whole revolution which finally culminated in a law allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia. People in places like India may ask, what's the big deal? I was speaking to this gentleman who lives in my apartment complex when he was discussing an episode where his SUV gave way just before his rather large family was to go on a Rojas trip, and he was describing to me his frantic attempts at finding another driver as he had to split the family into two cars and he had already declared 'vacation time' to his regular chauffeur ( known as driver in India) "doesn't your wife drive?" I asked innocently. "Of course not. Why should she?" came the reply. "But don't you ever wish to drive?" I asked looking at the wife. " I choose not to! Driver hai na? And when we go as a family, Jignesh drives", she said referring to her husband.

Therein lies the difference.

A greater part of female urban India around middle age, doesn't drive. One, because when they were younger at licensable age, they were lower down the economic spectrum and a car never crossed their minds. Now, they're on the opposite end, and not having a chauffeur is demeaning on the 'log-kya-kahenge' arena! Secondly, the women had a choice. Never were they prevented by law, from anything, driving included. But for Saudi women, they were prevented by a weird law, which for some inexplicable reason prevented them from driving. The minute there is a denial, a rebellious urge to have that which is denied, springs up. Much like a child's tantrum or a diabetic craving for sweets. The issue, though, has been more symbolic, than anything else. Unreasonable repression of all kinds needs to go. Restricting women from driving has no logical basis other than blatantly declaring that some men want to prove ascendancy in a lame, almost desperate manner. Otherwise, how can it explain closeted driving skills? How exactly did the women learn to drive in the first place? Clearly they and their fathers, brothers and husbands care a jot about the law and it is perhaps the regressive cleric alone who holds on to his view! If anything, the women take the allowance to drive as a symbol that they may one day, finally find their own voice in all aspects of daily human life.

As an aside, though, my sympathies to Saudi society. There lay a society with lesser idiocy on roads. Even yesterday, I hurled a bunch of silent expletives at a 'late-evening sunglasses touting', 'make-up clad yet not-so-PYT' who clearly bribed her way to get a license! No, I am not being judgmental. I am a female driver myself with scant regard for my clan, although my sterling skills behind the wheel have been certified by my 0 crash record, and also by scores of my darker sex friends who strongly believe that I am an exception to the lady-driver category! But what the offending female driver did and why I was half in a mind to screech past her car, stop abruptly in complete filmy style, step out in stilettos, grab the woman's hair and slap her face real hard, I will leave to 'driving me crazy -ii' But till then, Saudis can now enjoy the phenomenon of abrupt lane cutting, left indicators before a right turn, indicators with no turns, terrible parking skills, middle of the road stopping and many other such wonderful antics of the fairer sex behind the wheel!

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