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Driving to Freedom in Kashmir

Oct 21, 2006:

More and more women are getting on the wheels in Kashmir and driving their way to freedom. Freedom for many of these means they are no longer dependent on public transport or family members for conveyance. Nighat Jabeen reports.

For many of these women drivers necessity has been the driving factor, for some passion. The sheer convenience of driving on one's own makes these women fight the odds and drive their way to success and freedom.

According to RTO Kashmir 24000 women have already obtained driving licences from the office and many more are applying.

"Some of them are very confident and fare better than men," says Parvez Wani Regional Transport Officer Kashmir.

Farhat Roohi, an electronics engineer still remembers her first drive in 2003.

"It was not a good experience. I drove from Saderbal to Dargah. Everyone along the roadside, even girls teased me," says Roohi.

Roohi was supported by her family to learn. She joined a driving institute as there was no one in her family to drive a car. And driving brought freedom.

"I no longer need someone to accompany me out. I can return home alone even late at night," she says.

But then it was not all smooth.

"Once I parked my car in Hari Singh High Street and went into a shop. When I came back I found three tyres punctured," Roohi recalls.

"I went back to the shopkeeper and he helped me out," says Roohi but adds that with society reluctant to accept women drivers there have been problems.

"Male drivers are often critical of you. Although educated people don't criticise much but bus drivers and auto rickshaw drivers are a problem," she adds.

However Roohi feels things are better off than when she began. Far better than when

Syed Rabi Firdous began. Firdous is the Head of Department English, Boys College Anantnag and has been driving for more than 20 years.

"When I began in 1985 there were very few ladies who drove a car," says Firdous recalling her earlier days of driving.

"I don't feel there is any criticism at present. There was too much of criticism in those days. Drivers and shopkeepers used to laugh at you and pass comments in those days."

Acceptance levels were low even among the educated. . .

continued . . .

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Kashmir Newz Specials
Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

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