Excited, happy, crazy, mad – that was me on being gifted my first scooter by my parents on my 15th birthday. It was more a necessity than a reward for doing well in my exams. My family had moved houses so now I lived about 10 km away from my school, which meant a driver was engaged to drop me off and pick me up from school on all weekdays and if he was late (which he usually was), I was punished for being late at school. So, my parents thought a scooter would put an end to my morning punishments and complaints.
Riding my scooter to school was so liberating. I had already taken riding lessons from my cousin the previous summer so I was confident. The first few weeks went by smoothly. Independence and confidence were the amazing perks.
Then one winter morning, on the way to school, the scooter started swaying on the road and I had to pull over. That is when I saw the flat tyre and my heart sank. I had observed my cousin change the tyre but had never done it myself. I stood on the side of the road, looking around in the foggy morning, trying to spot a mechanic shop. But it was too early and foggy for anyone to open shop. I kept staring at the scooter and my watch, in turns, trying to think quickly about what to do. I decided to go into the house where I was stuck and ask for help (not such a scary thought in a small Indian town in the 1990s).
Upon entering the house, I explained the situation and asked to use their landline phone (yes, the era before mobile phones!) to call my parents for help. My elder brother answered the phone, I narrated the incident and asked him to come soon so I could still make it to school. I thanked the lady and went back and waited by my scooter.
Ten minutes later, my brother came and changed the tyre and I was on my way to school, albeit late. My brother did not say anything to me that morning, so by the time I went back home after school, I had forgotten about this episode. But it seems my parents were not ready to forget.
My parents and brother sat me down and questioned me about the incident in the morning. I could not understand the fuss and kept looking at my brother, trying to figure out what the humdrum was all about. Then my father very calmly told me to return the scooter keys, saying that if I want the independence, I need to take responsibility as well. I should know how to change a flat tyre, how to fix problems with the scooter, go to the mechanic, get the maintenance and repairs done from time to time. Nobody will do it for me. I had not realized what I was getting into when I got the scooter. Now I felt my dream turning into a nightmare. I looked at my brother with pleading eyes but he too was on dad’s side. So, I had no choice but to agree and learn, because the other option of returning the scooter was unthinkable for me.
So that was the start of my journey of learning to become responsible, fix all bits and pieces around the house. The fact that I was a girl was completely irrelevant to my folks. I learnt to change bulbs, fix electric faults, fix minor plumbing problems at home, carrying shopping bags, grocery bags, negotiating with people who worked for us, and yes, I also learnt how to change a flat tyre.
Today I am a single working woman, in my mid thirties, living alone. I never depend on anyone to fix things around my house. I don’t have to wait for an electrician or a plumber to come and fix things for me. It saves so much time! This is truly liberating. My parents gave me the best gift ever by teaching me that with independence comes responsibility.
If we women expect men to treat us as their equal, then we need to first start treating ourselves as their equal. Independence and responsibility go hand in hand and these are not gender based.
Anahita Suri, Assistant Professor, School of Fashion Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.