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I heard a horn blaring. Who the hell is that?? The gate at the railway level crossing has just been opened and there is a rush of vehicles moving in either direction inch by inch. Who is the fool who thinks he can get through this rush by honking so loud?? I myself am sandwiched between a huge van belonging to English Clay India Ltd in front and a few motorbikes and a Maruti car behind. A few minutes back I had seen this flashy red car trying to creep in on me from the wrong side. Scare the woman out of her wits and get ahead of her is the motto of many men drivers. It gives them a kick, this chance to show off their ‘manliness’ by rudely pushing aside a woman driver. I have seen such vermin around a lot, though I have been driving only for about 10 years.

Normally at such times I let the pests in a tearing hurry, who in local parlance are in urgent need of vaayu gulika (pills for gas trouble), go ahead. I don’t think a minute or two is going to make much difference to me. When you are in dire need of those pills, it does make a difference I guess and so it’s better to let them move ahead. Of course there is another school of thought that does not support this Vaayu Gulika Theory. These pushing women drivers off the road guys are just ‘little’ show-offs that you knew back in your nursery days. For them you are like the little girl, the scaredy cat whom they liked to scare and feel great about it. See how Macho I am!! Look, I am first, Yaaaay! Grown men in appearance may be, but no better than little boys at their ‘who is better’ games.

Yet today I just ignored him and remained right behind the van in front of me. Not because I wanted to join in his game of one-upmanship (Would I deign??) but because there was no way he could push past me, there just was not enough space even if I wanted to let the man go ahead. So I kept right behind the van moving inch by slow inch ahead. That is when I heard the insistent blaring of the horn. Who the hell is it?? I remember thinking. There was no point blaring horns in this mad rush.

Right about then there is the flashy red car alongside me again or as far along side as the Aspiring Road Hog could get. “Go slow.. go slow” he shouts at me. Go slow?? None of us in that jam packed situation could either move forward or backward any faster unless of course like Superman we decided to abandon our vehicles and shoot off into the sky. And for that we would have had to open the doors of the car which was near to impossible right then.

“Can’t you see vehicles coming??” You mean like those creeping upon me from behind and on my wrong side to boot?? I glanced to my right side to see if I had transgressed. Vehicles were moving at the forced leisurely pace and I saw no frowns on any of the faces that were crossing me to go the other way. As it is I am right behind this huge van and I know I am not hindering anyone or hogging any space.

“You could have had bad scratches on your car, the way you are going!!” Like when this flashy red car brushes against my van while trying to get in front from the wrong side?? And where was I ‘going’ or better still how could I do any ‘going’ in this bumper to bumper traffic the way he makes it look??!!

What is it with some men drivers?? I know all the jokes doing the rounds about women drivers and their lack of skills while behind the wheels. Oh come on, give me a break!! We all know jokes are meant to be laughed at. They DO NOT SPEAK TRUTH. In fact jokes hide the truth. Don’t tell me the Irish and Sardrajis are all what they are made out to be, not to mention the jokes about all those poor men who suffer at the hands of women when in reality out in the big bad world the majority of women are silently suffering and quite far from being considered equals.

Take this Man in the Flashy Red Car whom I met this morning on my way to Kochuveli station to pick up my junior son (Yaaaay! My son is home!!) He probably has heard quite a few of them jokes about women drivers and sadly believes them to be true. That probably makes him feel justified in making supercilious remarks though he is the one encroaching road space. It infuriates him that I was not intimidated by his tactics and let him forge ahead. I had no time to answer him and even if I had would I have condescended to, for would that not have brought me down to his level?? I had better things to do, like to concentrate on what’s happening on the road, to keep with the rest so that those behind me were not inconvenienced.

I have noticed this superiority complex of men when it comes to women drivers on the road. It is NOT about the poor driving skills of women, not at all. It is plain inability to accept a lady driver. I have observed that men don’t mind when other men make the same mistakes that they accuse women of. They gladly suffer fool drivers if they are men. But women… that’s different. Even if you are good behind the wheels it is not good enough. You are a woman, what else can be expected of you! read the expressions. Fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, men-friends… they are all guilty of this crime.

One day I watched my brother take a U-turn on the busy road from Pattam to Kesavadasapuram. There were no dividers those days or prescribed places where you were allowed to take U-turns like the present. It was a free for all situation. He just made the turn while other vehicles stopped to let him pass. I marveled at the patience of the drivers on the road. All hell would have broken loose if it had been me. Disdainful looks and condescending smirks and exasperated sighs apart, ’What the hell does she think she is doing??’ ‘Ha! Give them a vehicle and they think they own the world!’ would have been some of the nicer things I would have heard. Why?? Is it because I would have taken a longer time?? Oh no siree. Get facts right. I am a woman, isn’t that reason enough??!!

There is a one way leading from the University end to Spencer Junction. You are allowed to park on one side of that road. One has to slow down a bit to look for availability of parking space. That is what EVERYONE including the men do. But whenever I have done so I have people (read men) honk in impatience. What the hell does she think she is doing holding up the traffic?? There are men who stop their cars to let out whole hordes of family members, even talk to them before parking their cars blocking the road for minutes together. Hello, why don’t I hear any horns blaring?? Ahh, now I get it. Women are magical creatures who should know in advance about the parking space available ahead even when its not visible to the naked eye, through their x-ray vision!! Or …or… is it simply that ‘how dare that silly Woman make Man wait’??!!

One day a Man in his Ambassador car chased me and made me veer off the road, bringing me to a stop. My mistake?? I stopped him from turning first. My friend who was with me was simply amazed. ‘I was on the main road and you were coming from the side road, so I had right of way’ says he. Oh really??!! You think I don’t know such rules being a woman?? But I would suggest, kindly of course, that you better go and brush up your knowledge about main roads and side roads. Naturally, I said none of those things. There are plenty of street dogs in our locality and sometimes they bark a lot. Even if that irritates me do you find me barking back at them.

Once, an elderly male relative asked me, whether I had ever driven through the road at Chalai. I haven’t for the simple reason that finding a parking space is tough. What’s the point when you have to park quite a distance away?? ‘That’s tough job’ he says in a voice barely hiding the I knew you weren’t up to it tone in it, as if not having done so in some way disqualified me from the Elite Driving Club. Driving through Chalai is tough??!!!! A one way that goes through a busy market area bustling with people is tough driving?? I almost laughed at the gentleman. Yeah it must be for those of the men who are always in a tearing hurry to get those vaayu gulika I spoke of earlier. But why should it be for someone who has control over her vehicle provided the brakes are in good condition??!! Beats me!

While at the vegetable shop one day, I heard a man’s raised voice and turned around to find him finding fault with a middle aged lady who had parked her car next to his scooter. The lady got out and locking her car smilingly and gently told him, ‘..but I have not hit your scooter.’

“You were very close to!” Looking around at those waiting in the shop for approval and sympathy, he said,

“Last week a lady driver hit my scooter damaging it badly..” The emphasize on the ‘lady’ couldn’t be missed by anyone. I almost asked him if he would have preferred his scooter to have been damaged by a ‘gentleman’ driver.

“…and I had to spend quite a lot” His eyes now rested on me seeking understanding of his predicament. I gave him a blank stare. I had to bite forcefully on my tongue to stop myself from asking him sweetly if his workshop charged him for repairs according to the sex of the driver who hit the vehicle. Also, would he have been happier and more mentally at ease if the accident was caused by a male driver??

Of course didn’t you know there were no accidents before women started driving. Aren’t all car accidents everywhere in the world caused by women drivers?? Men are such perfect drivers. Aren’t they?? Ahh well, if they want to live in their delusional world who am I to stop them?? The only thing I wonder about is if they are so confident about their skills why do they make so much noise about it?? You know what they say, bullies are really cowards at heart and applying the same logic……

Some trivia: I took to driving very late in life at 39 to be precise. There were men, some late bloomers like me who were learning along with me. I never found they were any better or quicker than me. In fact the Asan (teacher) used to let me drive when he was occupied. As soon as I got my license he gave me the go ahead saying I didn’t need any more practice driving. Let me also add that the three Martians in my house don’t roll their eyes at me when I drive. In fact they have always appreciated my mastering the skill. Both my sons have complimented me at different times for different reasons and I value those words more than any certificate. The only niggling thing that bothers me when I take my car out is parking space and its availability.

More on woes of a woman on the road:

On the Road from Monika