One fine evening, I was on my way back home after meeting a couple of relatives in Gurgaon. I was in the car with my younger sister and my father, who was driving. We were waiting at the traffic light when I noticed that the car in front of us had backfired and couldn’t restart. A lady stepped out of the car, anxiously trying to figure out what went wrong. By the look on her face, I could see how worried she was. Not because her car wouldn’t move, but because she was holding up traffic when the signal was green. In India, at least in my experience, people have a habit of honking every five seconds before the light changes from red to green. Judging by her expression, she too dreaded the moment of endless honks as her car had blocked the entire road.
She turned to the auto driver next to her car, to ask for help to push her car to the side of the road while she steered it. For some reason, however, he refused to help. The lady asked him again, but it seemed like he didn’t want to get stuck in the traffic while he helped her, so he outright refused. I understood his reasons, but if the car wasn’t moved out of the way, nobody could get out of the lane.
This was when my father told me to get out and push the car. I asked her if she any needed any assistance and could see how grateful she was when I volunteered to help. Just when I was about to start pushing, the auto driver stepped out and told me that I didn’t have the strength to push, so he offered to push it instead. Keeping my cool, I told him that I could push the car without his help, especially when he had refused to help in the first place. I found it extremely stupid; the fact that I stepped up to help the lady when he didn’t, that he had the audacity to question my ability to push a heavy car. I guess he assumed that being a woman, I didn’t have the strength to move the car. Or perhaps he felt ashamed that a woman volunteered to help instead, in an activity that many would consider a masculine role. I’m reminded of many similar examples, especially in films dated decades ago, where things like pushing cars are considered a ‘male ability’.
Perhaps he forgot that we don’t live in that era anymore. I knew I had more than enough strength to push the vehicle easily. And so I did. I pushed the vehicle on my own easily, before the auto driver began to push as well. When we finally moved the car aside, the lady stepped out and thanked me repeatedly. Now, I didn’t help her out because I wanted the auto driver to be ashamed. I helped her because I believed that I could do it. I believed that I had the ability to push the car, despite what other people thought. When the auto driver told me that I wouldn’t be able to do so, I knew immediately that I was being stereotyped because of my gender. I didn’t have to prove it to him or anyone else, but I did it because I believed that my efforts will be valued to me and the lady in front of me.
You see, the process of breaking gender stereotypes need not be big. You don’t have to do extravagant things to show that you can break those imaginary boundaries. It’s the little things that impact more than the big ones. It is high time that we move past norms, restrictions, and stereotypes that apply to gender. We are in a place now where gender isn’t a prerequisite for everything and it is time that we start treating people from all genders equally.
Image credits: https://freeimagesandillustrations.blogspot.com/2018/11/pushing-car-silhouette.html