I visited Jaipur last week and like young kids of our relatives from abroad get excited and surprised looking at monkeys, dogs and cows on our Indian roads; I beamed seeing that everyone wore a helmet: the rider and the pillion too, even females- aunty in a sari, college girl on a bike, even grandmas. In retrospect, I wonder how women in our city pretty much invented the idea of covering their face with a dupatta while traveling, which not only serves as an important safety defense mechanism while on roads but also restricts pollution. But as someone who wears a helmet, I do not understand why so few women (even fewer than men) wear helmets while driving in the city, or do we see our dupatta as a replacement to helmet.
The most interesting things that happen to you is when you go to buy a helmet, especially if you are someone forgetful as me, you’ll have to go there more often; twice have I gone to a helmet place near commerce six roads, I have rifts with the person. He begins with showing be a ‘ladies helmet’, the cap like delicate thing which will be the first thing to break or come off, and it doesn’t cover your face and jaw. The thought process that went into its designing must be “Oh women are so delicate; we need to give them a delicate helmet.” Right. Once I tell the kaka, I don’t want this. He will say, ‘ben, aa enough che. Chokrio ne aatlu chali jashe. Koh toh biju batavu pan heavy lagshe.” (Listen, this is enough for girls. I can show you other ones but you’ll find them heavy.) I would stand there and nod left right, meaning no. Then he would show me a ‘Men’s helmet’. I buy it and leave.
But the most interesting thing is why most traffic cops don’t stop us without a helmet? “Beheno ne chaale, bukhani toh pehri che ne.” (Such helmets should be enough for women, they wear dupatta anyway.)
Perhaps we feel it will spoil our hair or our precious hairstyle, but then think, is your face more important or your brain. Also, it’s normal to feel the helmet to be heavy or uncomfortable, for the first five or six days, but it is a good problem to have. You will get used to it in no time and theirs no choice. It’s pretty much as essential as a bra.
If you are worried about your hairstyle, think, is it more important or your head?
A friend of mine, an American woman from the US who is a stunt woman over there had said in one of her research project trips to Ahmedabad, “I think driving a two wheeler in Ahmedabad is riskier than stunts in my films. I wouldn’t dare drive here!”
Adding to the original quote, ‘Driving liberates a woman’, I would add ‘and helmet saves her’. Also, don’t you think following traffic laws shall be better step towards equality?
(A shorter, crisper and nicely translated Gujarati version of this post was first published in my brand new column ‘Women City’ in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad. Show me some love or hate, tell me what you think about this- either here in the comments or mail or tweet!)