My mother was always an advocate for a woman being independent, including being able to drive herself. She has been driving me to school all my life, and all my life, I have witnessed the battles that she fought on the roads every day. People expected her to be a horrible driver, a pushover, a danger to herself and them. They overtook her, they drove within inches of her side mirror, they leered at her. A beautiful woman, she was also the subject of many stares and creepy smiles.
She taught me many things about strength and self-assurance, especially on the roads of Karachi - if they're coming at you, don't look at them, they'll stop; if they're staring at you at a stoplight, maintain eye contact, they'll stop; if they act like you're a dangerous driver, use it to your advantage.
When I started driving off-road in the rocks and sand of Balochistan, at age 8, I got many looks. My father was proud - his little girl had to sit on a cushion to see over the dashboard but she could get a jeep out of a rut quicker than any man. I was proud too, but that doesn't mean everyone agreed. My chacha's family complained that a little girl shouldn't be behind the wheel, that I was putting them all at risk, that girls shouldn't drive, and why did he bring me anyway? Offroading wasn't a girl's game, I should stay home with my mom and *shudder* draw.
None of that changed when I started driving in the city. It was the same busted-up collection of parts that had once been my dad's passion project. Driving on the road, I got so many looks. No one expected me to drive that roughed-up box of metal. Even my friends were shocked at the way I could control it, one of them even stopped midsentence when he expressed his surprise that 'a girl like you-'.
But what is a girl like me? A girl who grew up behind the wheel and drives offroad with her eyes closed? A girl who uses the doubts of men to her advantage, leaving them in the dust? Why do people ooh and aah over the vehicle when it's parked outside a store, when there's a dog dangling out the window, when it's flying through the dug-up roads of the city, but then look on in horror when a girl takes the wheel? Why? Is it really so surprising?