Monday, May 02, 2005

Of living in gated communities V: The Shopping bus and Depressed women

For women without their own personal drivers, the compound shopping bus becomes their lifeline. Lifeline to the outside world. It is through the shopping bus that acquaintances are made, which sometimes becomes friendship, where gossip is shared, and spread as well, where grief is sometimes shared as well.

I first met Ella on the bus. It was her second day, she said she needed to buy an abaya. I didn't really need to get anything but had hopped on the bus to grasp the oppurtunity to go out and venture. Its unsafe to walk and shop alone in this country. The men automatically think you're loose or something. Or that they can try something on you. These men need to have their heads checked but thats just the way it is here. So I offered to accompany her to buy her abaya. That was how we got acquainted and then we became friends.

If you're wandering its not quite a public bus. No women ride on public buses here, its unheard of. Women either take private buses (those run by their school or compounds) or limousines. Not the stretched variety, these limousines are just unmarked private cars which some women used, normally driven by a driver they trust, either run by the compound or introduced to them by a friend.

The mood on the bus was rather depressed yesterday. Bella who had just came back from a two months holiday in Rome was feeling the difference in lifestyle too much. She feels encaged. She said, "You know as women in this country we have no rights, no freedom. We cannot be seen or heard. We are treated worst than animals, even my cat has more freedom than I do. My cat can walk around anywhere it wants without the need of chaperone or abaya."

And I do sympathize with her. Some people get used to it. Others don't And sometimes the feeling of being oppressed comes in cycles. Especially if you have been out on a holiday to someplace else in the rest of the normal world. Coming back to have restrictions imposed on you just hits you harder.

I did talk to her before she left for her extended Christmas holidays. She was telling us how she liked it here. But now the culture shock has returned. We often feel, upon coming back here, like our wings are clipped cruelly after we were allowed to fly around else where.

And how do the women drown their caged sorrows? By shopping of course! As I mentioned earlier, the shopping bus becomes a lifeline for the women to the outside world. And the primary occupation here is shopping! And guess what, more Malls are being built as we speak. Who actually buys anything these Mall we don't really know. And I often wonder how the economy can sustain the sheer number of Malls. WOmen here do shop and buy things out of sheer boredom.

The recreation manager would produce a time table every month, detailing where the shopping bus is scheduled to go for the day. Some women depend on the bus for their grocery shopping. Some husbands are just too exhausted when they get home to bring them out. Others just don't like driving at night here and so their wives would depend on the weekends to be brought out.

Or they can take the limo. Perhaps they are called the limo because the charges are exorbitant. RM35 a ride or Rm 50 an hour for a waiting service. We normally refrain from using the limo unless it was absolutely necessary.

Aren't you glad you have the freedom to drive or take the subway or the public bus to go anywhere you want?

Everything, they say, comes at a price. For us here, its our freedom. Would YOU trade shopping for your personal freedom?


atenah said...

when i was in mecca, i went wondering alone, and people were simply shocked when they found out that i was unaccompanied. to enter saudia, i falsified my documents saying that i was married to one of the men in the group. i hope Allah will accept my hajj

Trust said...

Dont know if what I say is correct, but it is extremely dislikeable for a woman, to the point of haraam, to travel for haj without the accompaniment of a male muhrim. Now, sometimes, when we try to follow the dictates of our religion, we tend to do things, hoping that the end result would justify the means.

There are many ways to reach ALLAH, haj may be not one of them for many women, who are single. Don't be fooled (tertipu).

atenah said...

Hansac, point taken. Actually I was travelling in a group from London entering Riyadh. Yes, I do hope one day to go again for Hajj with my life partner, InsyaAllah. I was so green then, thought of Hajj like one of my travelling adventures, which it was not as i later found out. But it was good that i went, i learnt so much there. Thanks for the advice.

Bunn said...

Flora, can i have both? actually, i cannot see anything wrong with a woman who is single going in a group to perform the Haj. what is the justification 'mengharamkan' the action?

Sunflora said...

Atenah Insyallah. Only Allah will know. For me, fact that you even got there already was a miracle coz according to my ustaz, only people who answered Nabi Ibrahim's call thousands of years ago will get the oppurtunity to come. Insyallah you will get to come again.

Hansac, there are different opinions between the Ulamas on this. Depends on which kilaf ulama you follow I guess. But in the end its for Allah to decide and not for us humans to judge. Unless what you are doing is proposing to Atenah and promising to accompany her once more?

Bunn heheh ideally yes I want both too. As for single women going in a group, well again there are differing opinions. I was very very sad to hear that a group of women from France were denied visas to come to perform their Haj this year because they were all single unaccompanied women. Walhal they are coming as a group and some a recent converts too. The justification is that a woman must not travel alone without her muhrim untuk menjauhkan fitnah. But I think if she travels with a group of trusted women, it should be allright. Will have to ask my Ustaz more about this topic I guess.

Lollies said...

Since I dah terlambat naik bas..can you tell me where do you stay. Somewhere in Saudi Arabia I suppose.

atenah said...

notti noti girl, SF. hm trying to *play with fire*? nanti kita tak nak main batu seremban dgn awak (playground threat)

NurElsa said...

believe it or not, i am not a hantu shopping. which means my prefered answer is obvious :-)

re Hajj, i have issues myself sbb am planning for Umrah & takde muhrim. but it take it as it is, sbb Allah Maha Mengetahui.

Atenah, I think the fact that you reached there pun dah best sangat.I even termimpi-mimpi! :-)

Bunn said...

those are man-made rulings.

Leen Ash Burn said...

Hello Siti!

It's been awhile eh - what's with the long weekend. THen semalam MC because came down with a flu.

If it were these two - I'd obviously chose personal freedom. I don't shop much anyways. But I'd want the freedom to shop when I want to.

Am I making sense? Must be the Codeine talking hehe.

Take care! *HUGS*

Sunflora said...

Lollies come by my house anytime :) Just gotta arrange visa first. Yes I am in KSA.

Atenah hehehehe alah I wondered if Hansac will jawab my soalan or not. i am guessing not hehehe.

NurElsa, if you get the seruan, you will get the visa Insyallah.

Bunn, I agree. Its amazing how much money is made through this Hajj-Umrah business. SOmetimes I really wonder if its about religion or money. To masuk Arafah area during Hajj season each vehicle needs to buy a sticker that costs Rm1,000. So people who cant afford the sticker cant come in.

Hey Leen, I think I'd choose freedom too. Actually i want both but I have since concluded that everyhting comes at a price, its one or the other :( EG Duk London banyak freedom tapi takde duit nak shop hehehe.

elisataufik said...

you ni kan...
you are making me feel so depressed.