Fighting against the odds

‘The hand that rocks the cradle, can rule the world’ is a well-known saying that explains the ability of women. They are often treated weak on par with men. The society has set certain norms on its assumption that women are capable of doing only easy going works and not capable of doing the woks that require more skills and are tough to do. Driving a cab or an auto is considered one among such tricky jobs to do and women are least expected to be drivers.

We can still find some enthusiastic women drivers who have taken up the profession against all the odds. Shobha, a resident of Mysuru is one among them. Shobha runs auto for her livelihood in Mysuru from past ten years. She runs her auto for prepaid in the sub-urban bus stand. “It was a challenge initially, and I was out of much choice, but to run an auto,” says Shobha.

When she lost her husband, her daughter was a small child. To earn bread for the family, Shobha had to find some or the other job. Unfortunately, With a poor education background, Shobha was able to find only some cleaning works at hospitals and hostels, that too at night. Leaving the child alone at home and work at a hospital was practically impossible for her. Then her sister suggested her to try driving an auto.

Shobha made her mind to become an auto driver and joined a driving class in the city. Auto was not a new thing to her as her father too was an auto driver. She learnt driving and got a driver’s licence. “It was ten years ago, I somehow managed to get my driving licence. Now the rules are strict and they do not give licence to uneducated people,” says Shobha.

It was not easy to get an auto as getting the licence. She got an auto, but on a daily wage. She had to struggle a lot initially. It was not easy for a woman to drive an auto freely. So she decided to join as a prepaid auto service. She started her driving journey from prepaid auto stand at Mysuru railway station. She used to stay till 11 at night initially. It was not so easy going. Many passengers used to trouble her. The male dominated society was not so sure about the capabilities of a female driver. It was a bit tough to handle things at the work place too.

After a few years of experience, she thought of buying her own auto. She went to several banks seeking loan. No bank was ready to lend loan to a woman auto driver. Then TVS Company came forward to help her. They made arrangements for a loan for five years for a new auto. She repaid the loan in three years and is free of debt.

Shobha’s daughter Mamatha studies in 6th standard in Chikkamagaluru. Her aunt looks after her fondly and Mamatha is proud of her mother. Whenever her classmates ask her about her mother being an auto driver, she proudly says that her mother pays her school fee and looks after her requirements way better than others’ parents.

Earlier Shobha used to drive till 11:30 pm. After owning an auto and repaying the debt completely, she goes home early. “We speak of women being equal to men in all walks of life, but it is not easy for a woman to work hard and to be a sole bread earner of the house. I had to go through a lot of hardships being an auto driver. There are some more female auto drivers in Mysuru, who have earned a good name too,” says Shobha.

Even after gaining so much experience as an auto driver, Shobha still prefers to drive auto on prepaid as the track of the route can be found. She still feels driving auto on regular basis may help her earn more, but women are still not that safe. It is the mindset of the city that needs to be changed and not the profession of women like Shobha!

– By SHREEHARSHA C M

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