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Chicks on Wheels

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Women drivers are not bad, but my do they have stories to tell! Rhea Dhanbhoora & Gargi Bansod talk to a few women in the city to find out about their funny driving incidents; ask guys what they think about women drivers and also give you a few great tips

W  omen drivers have been ridiculed for generations and while the modern woman driver is savvier, smarter and can parallel park the hell out of a spot, there are still many funny stories that go hand in hand with every great drive. From getting the hang of reversing to being unable to park your car, women have suffered stares, screams and frustrated swearing because of their “failings.” A few women, who by the way, are fantastic drivers, share their experiences about what it was like when they were getting on the road.

Tree hugger
Colaba resident Harita Sonawat (26), had a nerve-racking experience while driving back from a vacation. She says, “We were four people in a car, driving back home from Goa. It was the middle of the night during the monsoon and there were occasional heavy showers and potholes as big as craters in the Ambala Ghats area. I was driving really slowly, getting a little paranoid and screaming that I couldn’t see the road. There was really low visibility and everyone in the car was guiding me, navigating “Left Harita, left, now right, right! Where is the dotted line?” It was quite scary. When the ghats ended, visibility increased and I gained confidence. I started driving faster and within ten seconds, realised I shouldn’t have done so as I came to a screeching halt in front of a fallen tree. I threw my hands up in the air then and just gave up.”

Parking paranoia

Chembur resident Payal Gadkari (24), tells us she wasn’t a brilliant driver when she first began to drive. She says, “I had just started driving and I was near Ruia College. My friends and I were going to Madras Café for breakfast and there was no parking around the restaurant. After a lot of roaming around I finally found a parking spot. The catch was that I had to park in between two cars and that’s where the trouble began. The street children tried to help, giving me directions, telling me which way to turn the wheel and what not. Finally, even they gave up. After what seemed like hours, I finally parked my car. It was the most trouble I’d ever taken to park!”

Left is right
Juhu resident Ishita T. (22), was never very good at sticking to her lane. And once, it caused quite the accident. While she laughs about it now, it was traumatic at the time. She says, “I used to favour the left side of the road a lot when I started driving. I always bumped into people with the side mirrors of my car and was subjected to a good amount of stares and swears from disgruntled people who passed by. Once, I had a horrible time trying to keep the car in a single lane and I swerved to the left accidently, hitting a man walking past me. He didn’t get hurt but his belongings fell into a well that was beside him! I got so scared and to make matters worse, I realised that instead of hitting the breaks, I was just accelerating further! It was quite an incident. I’m a much better driver now.”

She who hesitates must wait forever
That’s what Tardeo resident Veera Sawkar (52), believes in. She is not a meek driver at all and doesn’t believe in waiting around for other cars to pass her by. And driving an NE 118 in the old days, she was not one to mess with on the roads. She tells us, “I was driving out of the Willingdon Sports Club at Haji Ali one afternoon and there was a huge traffic jam in front of me, with a pileup of cars. Being me, I just kept edging forward, not really bothering about whether the traffic ahead was moving or not. Suddenly, from the back seat, my brother-in-law burst out laughing and pointed to a taxi driver half falling out of the window trying to stop the cars coming up behind him. He was signaling to them to let this crazy lady driver pass by before she caused an accident! All the cars that did stop also burst out laughing after seeing what was happening. At the end of the day, no one messes with a lady driver with a purpose, especially one in a sturdy car!”

Reversing trouble
Andheri resident Priyanka Saini (26), says that when she first learnt how to drive, her driving school left out one pretty important lesson. Reversing. Her inability to reverse saw her in a little bit of a tight spot on her way to work. “I was driving to office and in the middle of the road, I suddenly had to reverse. I was stuck! I just sat there in my car, waiting for someone to come and help me out. The chauffer from one of the other cars at my office came out and asked what I was doing parked in the middle of the road like that and seemed really amused when I told him about my predicament. He helped me out though, reversing and parking my car for me. I made sure I learnt how to reverse after that embarrassing incident,” she says.

Not giving up My space!
When Juhu resident Ensia Mirza (21), first learned how to drive, she didn’t like other cars driving anywhere near her own. She says, “I was driving in a small lane in Juhu with friends when a large SUV came up in front. He wanted me to squeeze my car to the wall so he could pass through and now that I think about it, it made more sense than where I was placed, bang in the middle of the tiny lane. I refused to budge, petrified about the car scraping past mine, ramming into the wall — all sorts of things. So I sat still, shaking my head, my windows rolled up while he ranted and raved about stupid women drivers and my friends called me crazy. I can’t remember how long I sat there and how many bystanders came up to the car, begging me to move to the side. I didn’t however and finally the SUV reversed all the way out of the lane, swearing at me the entire time!”

Getting out of a ticket
There's nothing fun about being on the receiving end of the question: "May I see your license and registration please?" But, if you ever get pulled over, we give you a few tricks to get out of a ticket.

Weep a little
A woman crying is the ultimate way to prevent a ticket. It just makes the cop uneasy and sympathetic. So, cry your heart out ladies.

There are enough people in Mumbai who break traffic rules so divert the cop’s attention to someone who might pass by without a helmet and say firmly, “That is a punishable offense”

Technical difficulty
Men think women can’t drive, so tell the cop you are still learning and pressed the accelerator instead of the breaks. Oops!

Be honest
Yes, this works. If you agree that you broke the law, he might feel like letting you off. But make sure you have a puppy dog face on.

Pretend you care
Show a bit of concern for him and his job and complain about how pathetic it is that the government doesn’t pay heed to their needs. Engage him in a conversation and scoot away slowly.

“I feel sick”
When the traffic cop suggests you hand over your info, make sure you have a pained look on your face. When he asks you what's going on just mention that you just had some greasy Chinese food and you have to rush home. Or dramatically blurt out "I have to poop!"

Boy Talk
Men will never accept that any woman can ever drive, forget being better than them. Here’s what they to say:

“Most women are ridiculous drivers. But the ones, who can drive, drive better than the best male drivers. On my trip to Ladakh I met a 40 something traditional Ladakhi woman whose husband was killed in the Kargil shelling on the Leh Srinagar Highway. She carried forward his taxi business and drives a sumo through treacherous high altitude highways with livestock, school kids and tourists. That’s pretty commendable to me.”

Ankit Vengurlekar, 29
RJ with 92.7 Big FM

“I feel as though the risk on the roads increases with the increase in women drivers. They’re always too busy, concentrating more on the mirrors, their handbags and their latest purchases than on the road or the traffic ahead. It’s quite scary to think about!”

Jigar Thakker, 29
Real estate agent

All about the looks
In a city like ours, small, cute and functional are great features when you’re talking about cars. And if they come in an array of colours too, we’re not complaining. Check out some of the cutest cars in the market:

Honda Brio: It has great mileage, good interiors and is a very smooth drive. A big plus point is that it’s easy to maneuver through the traffic of Mumbai. With the huge issue of parking space, the Brio fits in anywhere. And you can opt for colours such as Alabaster Silver, Rallye Red, Emerald Blue, Titanium Grey, White or Black Pearl.

Nissan Micra: This is a car aimed at the female market. The small car is good for zipping through city traffic, swinging into carparks and taking corners by surprise. It is quite comfortable and the boot can hold a decent amount of bags. Plus, everywhere you look there is space to stash things — change, a phone, wallet and even your makeup kit.

Volkswagen Beetle: The German company did good with this one. The stylish hatchback is not a woman specific car, but my do we look cute stepping out of one. With easy handling, great steering and a range of bright, attractive colours, the Beetle is a tiny car, but has the power and thrill of an SUV. We’re really on board with these colourful cars.

Tata Nano: While the small car is not big on power, it’s easy to maneuver and we love that it’s ridiculously simple to park. It’s surprisingly spacious especially for the price tag it boasts and the great mileage only adds to the attraction. We especially love the air conditioning and the music player equipped Sunshine Yellow model.

Safety First
Women who drive alone, especially late at night or early morning need to be extra careful. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to keep yourself safe while driving alone:

  •  Be careful when you’re parking. Don’t park in a dark alley or isolated area and remember to lock your car doors and roll up your windows.
  •  When you go towards your car to unlock it, always have your keys at hand. Don’t stand around your car fumbling in your purse for your keys because that gives wrongdoers time to act.
  •  The minute you get into your car, lock the doors.
  •  Being a good Samaritan is great; just avoid doing so when you’re alone. Don’t stop to pick up passengers or help out people with broken down cars. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  •  If your car breaks down in a lonely area, lock the doors and look for transport. Don’t stand around looking like a victim.
  •  Don’t stop to ask for directions late at night.
  •  When you’re at a petrol pump, never hand over your keys or step out of the car with the keys still in the ignition. It’s best to roll your windows down only halfway when you have to hand over money. Try to pay with cash, especially late at night.
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