In one of his recent speeches, PM Narendra Modi had spoken about his plans to make the country aatma nirbhar or self-reliant to tackle the various challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Days later, a rising number of people in Kolkata, especially women, seem to have started following in his footsteps by signing up for activities that did not feature in their priority lists prior to the lockdown. One such activity is learning how to drive. With public conveyance becoming a risky proposition, driving schools across the city are seeing a huge surge in the number of new applicants ever since they resumed operations earlier this month.
‘Women are more eager to learn, punctual’
For most driving schools, accommodating the overwhelming crowd of learners is becoming a challenge. Nando Kishor Shah from Ballygunge Motor Training School, which reopened on June 1, told CT, “From Day 1, we have been flooded with calls for new enrolments. Most of them are women. There are two major reasons why people want to learn driving now. First, they are scared of using public transport. Second, they don’t have the money to splurge on chauffeurs or app cabs that often have surge pricing,” While men are eager to commute to the workplace on bikes, women are interested in learning how to drive a car. “Among women, 30% are students, professionals or homemakers aged between 25 and 45. Women are extremely receptive and their eagerness to learn is praiseworthy. They don’t miss a single class and are quite punctual. We generally give 24 classes for half an hour each, but some women are willing to spend more on private classes so that they learn faster,” he added.
‘Minimising expenses and child’s safety on women’s minds’
Bimal Guha, the secretary of Motor Training School Owners Association and general secretary of Bengal Taxi Association, believes that being able to drive is a great step towards becoming self-reliant. “Which is why there’s been a 10-fold jump in people willing to learn driving ever since the lockdown was eased,” he said. Explaining why women are more keen on taking driving classes, he said that in most families women are the decision makers, especially when it comes to managing finances. “And with so much of uncertainty looming over our future, they want to cut down on certain expenses, including the driver’s remuneration. Apart from that, once schools reopen, they don’t want to take the risk of making their children travel in a school bus or pool car. They would prefer driving the kids to school on their own,” he added. According to him, almost 60% of the new trainees in driving schools are women. “Many of them no longer wish to remain dependent on the men in the family or public transport,” said Bimal, adding that the sale of second-hand cars, bikes and scooters has shot up recently.
‘Self-drive is safer, empowering and saves time’
For travel professional Renuka Lalwani, driving not only makes one self-reliant but also saves up a lot of time that is otherwise spent on commuting through public transport, which is not a reliable option during strikes, national holidays and heavy rains. “Even from the safety point of view, driving your own car is a much better option, especially for working women. Unlike app cabs, you can be rest assured of hygiene in your own vehicle,” said the 38-year-old, for whom driving is also an empowering experience.
Homemaker Piyali Mitra is taking driving lessons to gear up for her daughter’s upcoming board exams. “My husband is mostly busy with work and I don’t want my daughter to take the public transport for her exams in July. If I learn driving, it will help me take charge of a lot of chores and also save money,” said Piyali, 43, who was always intimidated by the very thought of driving. “But now, it is helping me take my mind off all the stress. While some have discovered their passion for cooking in the lockdown, I have overcome my fear of driving a car,” she smiled.
‘Women prefer smaller, pre-owned vehicles’
Since people started returning to offices, there has been a huge spike in demand for pre-owned vehicles. “Public transport is out of question for most office-goers. They are buying second-hand cars and two-wheelers to commute. Women – both homemakers and professionals – prefer smaller cars, especially for commuting to office or dropping kids to their schools,” said Amitava Sen, who deals in pre-owned vehicles.
Source:Times of India