Female Bus Drivers

Odd things happen on the bus. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to compose an intricate balance between letting your mind wander and yet remain involved enough in your surroundings to be able to respond to anything that comes up, from a conducter asking for the ticket price to some random oddball (yawn) staring/leering at your from his section of the bus. The truth is, the ordinary female in Pakistan gets stared at by men everywhere she goes and in any mode of transportation, so the reaction to being stared at by some random idiot is just to induce a big mental yawn.

Anyway, returning to the bus, this was the first time in a long while that I had travelled in the smaller buses, and I took a seat and studied my surroundings. Disappointingly enough, there was no bad poetry on the walls involving a tragic love affair and an ode to the sajan who has gone away forevermore. It was then that my eye strayed to the driver of this particular vehicle and I was shocked (in a good way) to discover that the driver was a woman wrapped in a chaddar.

Since nobody else seemed to have any reactions to this, I assumed that a woman driving these buses was an ordinary occurrance, but that was before I noticed the almost unnatural quiet. Nobody in the bus was talking. No women whispering to one another, no children pushing and giggling at their own inability to retain their seat as the bus twisted and turned through the narrow streets, no men conversing spiritedly about “the match” or anything else. Absolute silence except for the sounds of the bus itself. Then it struck me that the conductor, who was a man, was also silent. Definitely odd, since the conductors are the single most noisy beings within a bus, constantly arguing with people, cajoling and enticing people to board the bus and loudly announcing the bus’ next few destinations in a singsong manner.

It was at this point that I shifted my attention entirely to the dynamic created by a woman working “above” the man in a position like this. Conductors usually do all the manual labour while the bus driver is the silent “boss”, which is why I assume the driver is “above” the conductor on the food chain. The woman silently resumed her shifting of gears, all the while adjusting her chaddar on her head to hide her face from those at the back of the bus. The conductor seemed to be incapable of looking at her, addressing her or even making eye contact, preferring, instead, to smack his palm on the side of the bus once to stop, twice to go and several times to indicate that she should slow down to pick someone up. I had just about given up on him acknowledging the woman when she hit the accelerator and zoomed pass another bus with a vigour that would have made her opposite sex counterparts proud. The conducter, now hanging out of the doors, whistled and mock saluted good naturedly at the overtaken bus and then turned towards the front of the bus and nodded, just once. There was nobody there to nod to except one rear view side mirror placed for the convenience of the driver. Maybe just being acknowledged is enough for a female bus driver.

27 Comments so far

  1. Anathema (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 12:57 am

    I-M-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!!! Hail to the woman. Wonder what made her defy social norms. which number was this? the regular road bride or the private long new buses?

  2. misha (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 1:01 am

    It was an X-8 and yes, Respect to the woman in the chaddar!

  3. xtasy (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 1:21 am

    Good Stuff!!! I wonder when we will see the first woman to drive a scooter, its about time.

  4. abbas halai (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 1:38 am

    or a rickshaw with one leg up.

  5. saba (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 2:53 am

    Or a cycle.

    The best post here yet =)

  6. umar (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 9:11 am

    or a truck ;)

    seriously… I’m impressed. There should be more female bus drivers. The world would be such a better place.

    Kudos to misha for such a great post.

  7. A (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 11:23 am

    A woman bus driver? really?

    *scrolls up*

    *reads again*


    and to ‘woman’ a mini-bus, route X-8 would be that, would take loads of courage. At first I thought it was one of those UTS buses you were talking about, but.

    Anyways. I take great pains to get offended when anyone doubts ‘female’ driving skills.

    1. Because I am allergic to the use of word ‘female’ technically should be reserved for animals. Woman, girl, lady sound much better. And I hate my french teacher who shared in class the Gaulic hatred for referring to humans as male or female. I pick up trivial issues like that and seethe over them all my life.

    2. there is no school of driving divided along the gender lines; just good and bad drivers; skilled and careless drivers. Overtaking and cuts require confidence and skill, surely not a man’s prerogative. I have actually stolen parking spaces from huge four wheelers with men behind the wheel honking their annoyance. Boy, was it fun!

    and M, are you sure it was lady driving the bus, since your account mentions the chaddar so much, how can it not be a man battling a fever/flu?

    Re Abbas: I am getting a rickshaw (soonest Mom gives me her go ahead) and anyone can drive with one leg up in an automatic vehicle (i do it all the time). So the time may be closer than you think.

    Re Xtasy: there was actually a christian lady who rode a scooter to work some years back. and on main Shahra e Faisal, no less; my uncle told me about it. So.

  8. xtasy (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 11:55 am

    This is worthy of being a news item on pakpositive.

    Abbas: lol, that would be a sight

  9. misha (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 12:26 pm

    Thank you everyone. And yes, the lady in question was definitely a lady. If anyone’s travelled on one of those mini-buses, he/she would have noticed the billions of mirrors placed up front for thr driver’s benefit. I happened to be seated right behind the driver lady’s seat, against the right side and could see her face in one of the mirrors.

  10. Zag (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 12:40 pm

    My reaction is the same as A…. REALLY??!?!?!? I never thought i’d see that happening but hey, not only a female is driving a bus, but because of that, the ride in the bus is peaceful, now that is a double whammy.

    A: Its true that driving is not just a male thing. People do stereotype female drivers as bad drivers, but that is because most of the female drivers used to be really bad drivers. Now it is changing. I see a lot of girls who actually drive better than guys. But the image of a woman = bad driver has been in making for years and it is not going to go away over night. Maybe as more and more women start driving with confidence as they are now, it will fade away.

  11. Shariq (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 2:52 pm

    Have u ever tried to find the real cause of problem why guys stare at u? Thats because of the way you people move about with makeup/jewelery and god knows what … Cover yourself up in a modest way and you will find these problems will fade away…

    >> The truth is, the ordinary female in Pakistan gets

    >> stared at by men everywhere she goes and in any

    >> mode of transportation, so the reaction to being stared

    >> at by some random idiot is just to induce a big mental

    >> yawn.

  12. misha (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 3:06 pm

    I beg to differ, Shariq. Friend who wear burqas complain of the same problem, oddly enough, so I’m pretty sure dress has nothing to do with the problem.

  13. A (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

    Don’t beg to differ, M, know that you are right. ;>

    Shariq: Such should not really be the attitude, as Misha said, ogling, is actually across the board.

    Women dressing modestly is understandable; how about a certain modesty, some shred of decency in how you conduct yourself in public, on the men’s part?

  14. Zag (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 7:19 pm

    Misha is right, I’ve heard girls wearing hijab and burqa get the same treatment. Shariq, instead of telling girls to cover themselves up, guys should also lower their gazes. While we guys read the side of Islam that tells the woman to cover up, we completly set aside where it tells us to lower our gazes.

  15. Samar (unregistered) on May 6th, 2005 @ 9:03 pm

    Wow Misha! awesome. completely stunning.

    To the bloke who said females should dress modestly…every person’s definition of modesty differs a bit. it’s not what you wear or how you walk/talk in a public place. Even Burqa clad women are subject to the leery eyes and jeering comments of road-side romeos.

    Hail the Yawn!:)

  16. hafsa (unregistered) on May 7th, 2005 @ 2:10 am

    now THAT is great news. as for women driving scooters. there’s this lady in jinnah hospital who drives a mototcylce. she be cool!

  17. alias (unregistered) on May 7th, 2005 @ 2:11 am

    Oh, God, please don’t let them use mobile phones. Oh please, please please. I beg ya. No mobile phones, and oh, no paan either. Definite no! Can’t have the ladies spitting the disgusting salivary mixture all over Karachi, now can we (as if the ‘gentlemen’ were not enough).

  18. The Jaywalker (unregistered) on May 7th, 2005 @ 3:59 am

    I can’t believe that either. It’s a very interesting post; the best so far on this blog.

  19. zeeshan (unregistered) on May 7th, 2005 @ 8:14 am

    i think misha is right

    75% of male mind is sick in pakistan

    i m sorry for being so rude to men but i m

    a man my self. and i used to do that but

    i when you come to some USA then

    you realize that our pakistani women are for more

    decent becuase when you see these westren women

    they actually wear nothing (so we should actully pay some respect to them instead blaming them to be guilty)

  20. insiya (unregistered) on May 7th, 2005 @ 8:05 pm

    misha: great piece of info.

    xtasy: i have seen a lady (on the chubby side) driving a scooter, clad in a shalwar kameez around the Saddar Area 2 times. i saw the same lady once near Avari. i havent seen her in a really long while but i thought i’d still let you know!

  21. Saroosh (unregistered) on May 8th, 2005 @ 8:51 am

    oh wow…tht so cool

    itz interesting to do these kinda job i guess

    im curious wht kinda bus she was driving?

    mini bus or the new ones?

  22. xtasy (unregistered) on May 8th, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

    X-8, its a minibus

  23. mohummed (unregistered) on May 9th, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    I think ladies should drive UTS buses.

  24. LiyA mohSin (unregistered) on May 11th, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

    Hi I am an avid reader of this blog. I am not residing in karachi though I recently visited Karachi for the first time in my life. I noticed alot of changes from where i stay, in Singapore. One thing I would like to point out is the way the ladies sit behind a bike. Over here the guys and the gals sit the same way (same as how the rider is seated). In Karachi, I see the ladies seated with both their legs ‘outside’. Issit safe that way? I noticed very few female drivers out there too. I would be really glad to see a female bus driver but I did not. Maybe next time when I am there, I will keep a look out too.

  25. Navaid (unregistered) on October 8th, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

    A woman’s job is to cook, clean, and take care of children !

  26. ludo (unregistered) on November 19th, 2005 @ 8:10 am

    pakistan afemined country….muslims?…not not..women s..not job more

  27. Imtiaz (unregistered) on November 19th, 2005 @ 8:21 am

    great post!!

    i heard this was under discussion on the government level to start a “ladies only” bus service, but this is cool, tshe did it on her own.

    a true statement of breaking the norms and accepting reality in Pakistan.

    Kudos. Salut and all hail the positive change!

    Navaid: Id like you to open up a bit and take a look around you. There are many things that women do better than men. there will be more, if society gives a chance. The world has been created with equal opportunities for all. A few think headed people are in no position to stop that from happenening.

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