SRINAGAR, KASHMIR, INDIA – Priya Mahajan, 25, has been riding a Scooty – a gearless, motorized two-wheeler – for the last nine years. A project assistant at the Regional Research Laboratory, she received the vehicle as a gift from her uncle to get to tutoring sessions during high school.
“When I was in 11 th standard, my uncle who lives in U.S. gifted me this Scooty,” Mahajan says. “He sensed I needed it the most, as I had to go to multiple tuitions and coaching for different subjects. It was convenient, and I was no longer dependent on anyone.”
Mahajan say that riding a scooter in Jammu, the winter capital of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state, was already widely accepted when she was a teenager. But the same acceptance did not extend to the summer capital of Srinagar, which lies in the relatively conservative Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley.
But today, scooters are becoming an essential requirement for commuting there too, especially for young working women, Mahajan says. It is easier to drive when navigating narrow roads. And because Mahajan lives alone, she says that it is no longer a problem if she has to stay late at her office because she doesn’t need a ride home.
“Scooty sets me free,” Mahajan says. “I no longer depend on anyone.”
With her Scooty, she says she can help her family too.
“I take my mother out to the market,” she says.
Things are changing in the Kashmir Valley, with a sudden increase in the number of girls and women using scooters as their main form of transportation. Independence, the ease of getting to tutoring sessions and the ability to help their families has made scooters popular with schoolgirls and even young working women. Scooters also enable girls to avoid overcrowding and sexual harassment on public transportation. Sociologists link the trend to expanding gender roles for women here.
Scooty is an Indian brand of scooters manufactured by TVS Motor Company. Designed for girls and women, it’s the best-selling scooter brand and has come to represent a generic name for any female's two-wheeler in India.
Other motorcycle manufacturers have also unveiled scooter models marketed at young Indian women, such as Yamaha with its Ray model in 2012.
“We sell around 10 to 15 Scootys every month to female customers,” says a sales officer at a TVS Scooty sales outlet in Srinagar, who declined to be named. “The price of a Scooty ranges from 42,000 [$800] to 50,000 [$950] rupees.”
The rising number of applicants for gearless motorbike licenses also shows the popularity of scooters.
The first woman obtained a license for a gearless motorcycle like a scooter in Kashmir in 2009, according to the Regional Transport Office of Srinagar. In 2009, 50 women obtained licenses under this category, and the number rose to 488 in 2011.
Sana Yaqoob, 18, obtained her Scooty in March 2011. The student says that it saves her a lot of time.
“I live in a residential colony in