Is there really no 'gent' with you?
Is it really so shocking to be a choti mem saab getting something done in a sea of gaping men, alone?
It could be the heat or a genetic mutation that has turned me into a rabid zombie, but I'm willing to bet it's simply everybody else.
I am seething.
I, a 26-year-old female, went to the Islamabad Traffic Police office to get my driver's license renewed one morning. You know that feeling when you walk into a room and you are the only one wearing gold lame tights (I totally started wearing those before they were hip. Awkward.)? Yes, that's what it feels like; a young female trying to get something done in a sea of gaping men, shocked to find that you, a choti mem saab (young lady) are to be seen alone there!
I proceeded to booth number one.
Only one guy ahead of me. Score. Here I am waiting patiently under the noon sun, when a woman in her late 30s (the only other female face to be seen) cuts in line and stands right in front of me. Patience evaporates right away.
"Excuse me," I said, "I am ahead of you."
Unperturbed, she says,
There was space ahead of you.
Feeling a bit helpless, I utter profanities, rather scream them in my head. Why dear world, why must a woman cozy up to a random man's backside just to keep her place in line? The sweat is beginning to pour now.
I finally reach the booth. I yell in mem saab fashion to the face that greets me to teach their patrons the laws of the illusive qatar (queue). He wants 700 of my rupees and a form filled out. He does not have a pen for me to do this though.
The tirade resumes.
Why does this fine institution not have pens, a writing station, anything?
He looks at me as if this is the most obstinate demand he has ever encountered. He finds me a pen that barely works. I calm myself down and smile a thank you.
Now how to fill this form out?
S/O... Wha-? What am I supposed to fill here bhai (me trying to make peace)?
He is clearly exasperated.
'S/O' means 'son of'! Put in your father or husband's name.
Well, you can imagine.
Do women not have driver's licences?! Why does it say ' son of'?
Mumble Grumble, fume fume.
He has stopped paying attention to me. Clearly my protest is not translating correctly. Time and again, having to fill out my father or husband's name on forms (and job interviews demanding your marital status) has infuriated me. I am always tempted to fill those 'dotdotdots' with a big four-letter word. But this is too much.
Not acknowledging my existence is worse than acknowledging it only in lieu of a man. Right?
I huff to booth number three. The line is long but everyone seems to insist that I go to the front. I believe this is supposed to be chivalry. Hey guys, guess what? I CAN wait in line!
The shock! The horror! But it's true; I would rather wait my turn like the rest of you, cursing the inefficient system just like you and not have furtive glances and open-mouthed stares as if I were a freak show. I think its a decent trade-off.
They let me cut every line after that. Amused much?
In room number two, as my information was filled out on yet another flimsy piece of carbon paper, the nice man with eyes brimming with concern, said,
"Is there no gent with you? Are you alone? No gent? No aadmi?"
"Nope.", I reply.
"Okay, okay we will get you out soon", he insists.
Err, thanks, but really, I'm just irritated, not nearly overwhelmed at this.
I need consoling. I grab my friend and have lunch somewhere overpriced, but with all the air conditioning, it's worth it.
I order the salmon quiche. They bring me spinach instead.
What a day.
Follow Anam on Twitter @anamabbas