Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vroom, Vroom, Women…

More and more women at taking to two-wheelers in Gangtok, as much for convenience as the thrill of feeling the wind in their hair

Even as more women are taking to driving cars in Sikkim, in a noticeable trend, they are also increasingly taking to the thrill of two-wheelers. “Why should boys have all the fun” is clearly finding resonance among the ladies here as more and more of them are opting for two wheelers as their preferred mode of transportation. What has now become the irritating rashness of boys on wheels on city roads is meeting competition from the responsible acceleration of women threading through Gangtok traffic snarls on two wheels. Welcome to the roads, ladies!
Bhawana Rai, a first-year student, says that owning a scooter was an empowering moment for her, making her independent whether going to college or running errands. Riding a two-wheeler gives her confidence and now that she is an expert rider, she enjoys her newfound mobility.
“My scooty gives me confidence to move around freely without being dependent on anyone,” she tells NOW!
According to data available with the office of the RTO, Motor Vehicles, Gangtok, the total number of permanent driving licenses issued to women in 2013-14 stands at 536. Not a staggeringly high number, but it still is nearly 45 more licensed women drivers on the roads every month. And, most of the girls are applying for licenses to drive two-wheelers, a source at the Gangtok RTO office informs.
The RTO office also states that the number of two wheelers registered to women since April this year has crossed the 40 mark. Learners’ licenses issued to women meanwhile have reached a whooping 1,017.
Rosila, a teacher, says, “Girls are more comfortable riding a two-wheeler than travelling by taxis. Taxis are not always convenient for a woman working late hours or for students heading to or returning from coaching centers or tuitions early in the morning or late in the evning,” she points out. And then, share cabs do not necessarily link all lanes and reserving taxis is an expensive proposition for regular commuters.
She adds that she chose to purchase a Honda Activa for Rs. 63, 000 earlier this year since this was not that big a sum to pay for “freedom”.
“Even when it rains we always have the option to wear raincoats and ride. Riding is refreshing and even maintenance is less as compared to owning and driving a car. And there is no tension that you will not get a parking space with two-wheelers or get stuck in the jams of Gangtok traffic”.
Ajeet Oberoi of Yamaha Innovations, a showroom selling two-wheelers near Sikkim Jewels, Tadong, is happy to see his business growing on a daily basis. “The rise in the number of women driving two-wheelers is a major reason for the surge in sales. We have sold more than 80 scooters already till September this year,” he says.
The father of a girl who went to buy a scooter at Yamaha Innovations states, “It is far safer for my daughter to drive a two-wheeler than to travel in taxis since she works long hours in a private firm at Sang Khola. Girls have to move out of home to attend college and also for jobs in surrounding areas of Gangtok like Ranipool or Singtam. Using a scooter is a safe option as I know what time my daughter will be back home,” he says.
Medha Pradhan, a 19-year-old college student, cited another reason for buying a two-wheeler. She states, “My scooter gives me the opportunity to explore surrounding areas of Gangtok or hang out with my friends without worrying about transport.”
She also mentions that girls have also started with the trend of “scooty gangs”, which she also wishes to be a member of in the coming days. These groups include three to five members who all share the same passion and love riding their two-wheelers and enjoy hanging out together.
The mother of a college student had a different perspective about the surge in “women on wheels.” “Eve-teasing can also be avoided if girls ride two-wheelers, I guess riding scooters is a safer way for our daughters to travel once it starts getting dark.” she said.

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