-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Motorcyclists get away from left, right or centre; while stand watching them agape, sometimes to shell shocked to move. And if a motorcyclist has touched your car or  part of your body, it is your fate. He, however, will have shot away like a bullet. Pakistanis curse our traffic day and night and if we really think about it, motorcyclists are at the top of the list.

Mini buses, rickshaws, trucks and even car drivers try to drive like the motorcyclist and adopt his mood. The rickshaw driver tries his utmost to drive in the narrowest of places, completing forgetting that he is indeed driving a rickshaw and not a motorcycle. Before, we used to see scooters and Vespas, a rare sight now and replaced by a Honda and such.

Even our motorcycle advertisements depict the temperament of our men; riding around proudly in the front whilst the woman is always sitting at the back. Or a woman bringing food for the thick mustached man who rides away in to cities, as well as villages. This is exactly what we see on our roads too, everybody is expressing their manliness in the way they ride their bikes, macho, daring and not seeing anything in front of them. Someone should ask these lawmakers, who themselves ignore the law, how they expect these fearless males to follow traffic regulations.

When he sees a woman driving a car, his manliness and so-called integrity is at its peak. Whether he is well educated or barely literate, or has very recently kept a beard, hails from the mountains or has grown up in the city’s posh areas; seeing a woman drive makes him lose his senses, he fails to understand how a woman dares to compete with him on the roads. It’s a different thing that the woman herself has placed him on that unassailable pedestal with her undying hard work and persistence.

This is why under the excuse of religion and power; preparations are being made for covering up the woman in a niqaab and pushing her back. Now women are wearing niqaabs in advertisements too. Due to the prevailing economic situation, the man is forced to make the women in the house go to work, earn and give her share in the household expenditures, on the condition that she observes hijaab and other restrictions of course. And then we have the sons on the other side who are allowed to parade their motorcycles night long and collapse in bed each morning, they are not answerable to anybody of course.

Our working woman works day and night to reach a point where she can afford to buy a car to commute to work to, drop her children to school and do other household chores. But our integrity-laden men do not like this one bit. These driving women face undue harassment each day; whether they are driving in the city’s slums or posh areas, learned or illiterate, they all have the same mindset but their attitudes are slightly different.

One of our maids worked for us and for other houses day and night, her husband guarded some building and they lived on the building’s roof. She worked tirelessly to earn enough money so that she could buy her husband a motorcycle. When we heard, “Baji, he doesn’t let me ride on the motorcycle.” We asked him, “So, why don’t you let her ride on the motorcycle?” He replied, “she’s a woman, how can she ride a bike!” This is the attitude of our people – and we are only referring to the city. Step out of the city and you will feel like you have gone back further in time. When my partner drives the car on the highway, we are habitual of other men’s attitudes but even women turn around to watch her.

My partner once drove the car to Nangar Parkar, with everyone intently staring at her in all of Sindh, but not in Tharparkar because there they’re used to women doing all the work. You’ll see an old woman, her daughter riding the camel, taking it from one corner to the other. Not to mention the women who travel miles in search of water; their pictures proudly published and seen by all.

-Photo by Khuda Bux Abro

Now lets step across the border and visit our twin brother because they too have motorcycles, they too have scooters, they too have daughters; but there they ride in the driving seat and not the back seat.

Right opposite to Nangar Parkar is Udaipur, the same mountainous terrain which is famous for its marble worldwide; the whole world comes to see Udaipur’s beauty. While touring Udaipur’s palace, we saw girls and boys clad in beautiful uniforms, going home on their scooties. We discovered that these children attended the prince’s school which is inside the palace. The girls with their friends were going home.

Women there go to office on their own scooties or motorcycles. If you look on the road or in the bazaars, some daughter is driving her father to work or some mother is taking her sons to school; no one has a problem, nobody’s integrity is breached by a motorcycle-driving woman. Everybody is working, men and women, with no distinction. When they make a motorcycle advertisement, they show a daughter proudly seating her parents on her motorcycle. Here, not only must the daughter sit at the back, she must also be grateful to this healthy and integrity-laden man, one and only, with all his integrity hidden in his moustache.

-Photo by Khuda Bux Abro

Here after a lot of hard work does a woman become eligible to lease a car. But if we had the same environment, our middle class women would have had a ride and could have gone to schools and offices, not in uncomfortable buses where they suffer harassment from their integrity-laden brothers in those buses. Girls there go home from schools and colleges on their own motorcycles and here, we see crows and eagles wandering in front of schools and colleges. Some girls belonging to the lower strata stop going to school because the neighborhood hero starts following them. And if that wasn’t enough, now those who blow up girl’s schools are seen in cities too.

To make money and increase their ratings, all multinational companies and channels are, knowingly and unknowingly, trying to drag our country downside They try hard to find clerics who are then seen on the small screen, to brainwash our minds.

Another point to be noted is that whoever is involved in terrorism – whether picking Shias from a line up and killing them or attacking an Air Force base – he is dressed in a uniform. They are the same people who destroy girl’s schools as part of their beginner training and are now moving towards their bigger targets. Multinational companies and channels are paving the way for this extremist mentality and the time is not far when they will bewail their doing – those in uniforms are already regretting it.

 


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

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