Mission Delhi – Nazma, New Palam Vihar
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It all began with the bicycle, all those years ago, in Saharanpur town in UP. She was just 8.
“Actually it started with the 25 paise Babu (father) would give me every day,” says scooty owner Nazma. The 44-year-woman in Gurgaon’s New Palam Vihar in the Greater Delhi Region is talking of her early experiments with riding her own vehicle. She would use the pocket money by father to rent a bicycle from a neighboring shop, and would ride it for fun.
“I was the first girl in our mohalla to go about on a cycle on her own,” the lady says modestly during her chat, this evening on WhatsApp video.
Nazma might have been a feminist pioneer in the locality where she grew up, but she describes herself as “just a housewife” — as if being a homemaker was one of those idle things people did for leisure. This mother of three laughs while giving details about her daily chores, that have become even more numerous over the pandemic days. Indeed her husband, a real estate developer, and her school-going kids spend almost all their time at home, while the household help has gone back to her village. “I clean the house, I cook the food… I do everything.”
But she hardly drives her beloved scooty any longer. “Earlier I would drop my kids to school daily, but now their schools are closed,” she shrugs.
Nazma’s long journey to driving the scooty began in rather adverse circumstances. When she first started to ride the rented bicycle, people in the neighbourhood would object and complain to her parents: being a girl, she was not supposed to be seen like that. “Ours was a conservative locality, in which women would hardly come out of the house,” she admits. School girls like her walked to school in groups, never alone.
Nazma’s father, a scooter mechanic, didn’t care about the prejudices of the world. He practically told the people to go and take a ride. “Babu would tell me, ‘Koi nahi, tu chala (No issue, you ride)’.”
Later, when she planned to go to a girls’ degree college that was on the other side of town, her father taught her to ride his own scooty in an empty plot nearby. “Babu would carefully show me every brake and handle and explain the function of each… he supervised me as I would ride the scooty, asking me to apply the break frequently so that I don’t speed up.”
After completing her graduation, she got married and moved to Gurgaon. “I became busy with raising my family and forgot all my driving skills.”
Five years ago, though, encouraged by a scooty-owning neighbor, a woman named Asha Malik, she started to learn to ride the two-wheeler again. Inevitably, she realised that having her own vehicle would make her more independent, and that her mobility wouldn’t have to depend on her husband to drive her in the family car. She toyed with the possibility of buying a secondhand scooter. “But my husband bought me a brand new scooty.” (For now, she has no inclination to learn driving the car.)
Nazma rarely goes out these days because of the pandemic, but she promptly walks to the porch outside for a photo shoot through the phone screen that connects her to The Delhi Walla. It so happens that her husband has briefly went out on her white scooty. But no problem. She walks over to the neighbor’s black scooty and sits on the driver’s seat, as if raring to go.
[This is the 345th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A scooty story