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Updated: July 8, 2013 09:17 IST

Chennai woman in the driver’s seat and in control of their lives

Vasudha Venugopal
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Saraswathi makes Rs. 10,000 a month by driving the auto till 2 p.m. every day, and then heads to college in the afternoon. Photo: M. Srinath
Saraswathi makes Rs. 10,000 a month by driving the auto till 2 p.m. every day, and then heads to college in the afternoon. Photo: M. Srinath

21-year-old B.Com student learnt to drive autorickshaw to support family

She weighs barely 38 kg and can easily pass off for a school student. But 21-year-old Saraswathi has been steering an autorickshaw on city roads for the past three years.

The B. Com student of Quaid-E-Millath Government College in Medavakkam wants to earn a living and support her younger brother’s education. She makes Rs. 10,000 a month by driving the auto till 2 p.m. every day, and then heads to college in the afternoon.

After class XII, she insisted on helping her father who is also an auto driver. “We had heavy debts because of my sister’s marriage. I wanted to help my family somehow,” Saraswathi says.

“My father taught me to drive the auto but was not keen I take it up as a livelihood. But I did not mind and I also wanted to finish my studies. Today, if people respect me as an auto driver, it is also because I am educated,” she says.

Saraswathi’s mother sells curd and keerai in the Narayanapuram neighbourhood and makes less than Rs. 2,000 a month. “Since my mother has to leave before dawn to get to the market, I prepare food at home and finish other chores before heading out in my auto,” she says. Saraswathi is waiting for the day her income will help her family. “I want my brother to study computer science or any other computer course. Once he is skilled, he can get a good job,” she says.

Among her regular customers are working women who trust her to drop off their children to art classes and tuitions. “Some of the women don’t even trust their husbands to do this. They need me to come on time so their children don’t miss their classes,” she says.

She also gets calls from women who go to weddings without a male escort. “They don’t want to take a chance because they would have a lot of jewellery on them,” she says.

And distance is no barrier for Saraswathi who is quite familiar with the city. “I have driven up to Kovalam, Thiruverkadu and even to villages in Chengalpattu. “But these were for regular customers who know I drive safe. I am yet to learn to haggle over fares. When passengers start arguing, I just move on to the next person,” she says.

The daily drives come with their own set of challenges. Sometimes, motorists try to race with her or distract her. “But most people are amazed at the sight of a woman auto driver. Some even come up to congratulate me. I find it very inspiring,” she says.

So, why drive an auto when you can take up part-time jobs in offices? “I would like to do that sometime, but I cannot speak English. I barely understand the language because I studied in Tamil medium,” she says.

Her father is now supportive of her work, she says. “He helps me a lot by advising me on how much to charge customers for different routes. But he gets very worried when I get late,” she says. The only time she misses work is during exams.

“I have managed to secure pass percentage in all subjects so far. The B.Com degree is very important to me,” she says.

And customers too are supportive of her. “People often tell me to study and get a good job, in a call centre or somewhere.”

More In: Chennai | News

May all her dreams come true

from:  Anonymous
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 21:47 IST

I heartfully pray that she would achieve her goal of bringing up her family. Kudos to her for being a role model. I challenge all the lazy girls out there giving all the excuses to learn from her...

from:  Christie Samuel
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 12:02 IST

India needs this kind of perseverance candidates.

from:  Mohamed Haja Jaffer ali
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 11:11 IST

Kudos to Saraswati... she has broken a barrier in Chennai culture !!
You are my hero

from:  J. Mohammed
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 07:51 IST

Now that this has come out in the media I am sure Amma will lend Saraswati a helping hand. God Bless Saraswati for a better life and success in all her future endeavour.

from:  KBK Nair
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 07:51 IST

any one down and out...looking for an inspiration, really worth having
it a go......along with saraswathis story the picture makes things more
powerful.Every kid of this generation and everyperson should go through
this, i m sure will generate positive intent in his life and initiate a
spark within himself.

from:  hari
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 05:05 IST

kudos to the young girl, she is struggling hard so that her brother can get a good job. Just shows how much she cares for her family, she's an inspiration to the young generation. The govt should help such people.

from:  Nityah
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 03:25 IST

Sarasawathi's story will surely inspire many other men and women who live in the same economic strata.

I am more than happy to bear all of her educational expenses.

Can HINDU let me know her contact details please?

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 02:38 IST

Fabulous, amazing and hilarious. What power this young girl has. I am a
publisher in London If someone can write a well written book about her.
I would be willing to publish it.

from:  Kamaljit Sood
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 02:25 IST

I don't understand what Sathyam Cinemas and Pizza Hut have to do with earning a living, Mr Ramanathan .

from:  varun
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 02:10 IST

Good to hear these kind of positive and inspiring news items.

from:  Zafar
Posted on: Jul 9, 2013 at 00:53 IST

You are the proud girl of Tamilnadu. I request our Honourable CM to help her to pursue her higher studies also. We need millions of honest and courage saraswathi throughout India.

from:  Shankaran
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 21:47 IST

Its an inspiring news and kudos to the editor for selection and keep
posting some good news like this.

from:  Sharbudeen
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 18:35 IST

Hats of that is important and each work has its own power and value. . So really proud.. wishing u all success. .

from:  Ranjith
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 15:50 IST

Let us pray the Al-mighty to give a helping hand to her family always. We know that there are many Saraswathis' families are living like this. Thier way of life is the secret of India's survival in World.

from:  Sathyamoorthy
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 13:00 IST

I read this news and I feel proud to be an Indian and also happy to know
that girls like Saraswati is have courage to challenge to our society
and others think once again how to empower women.

from:  dheeraj mishra
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 11:09 IST

Khudos to young hard working Saraswathi. All our Netas & bureaucrats
should learn from this hard working educated girl about how to earn a
living honestly and not indulge in looting the country.

from:  ashok.s
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 10:26 IST

Hat's off Miss. Saraswathi. You become a role model and iconic female of Chennai. We Salute you.

from:  d s raja
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 09:34 IST


from:  Madhu P
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 09:24 IST

Bravo ! Such women must be encouraged, supported and protected,by all.

from:  V. Vedagiri
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 09:23 IST

No matter what the work is, if you worship it you shall suceed in life. Heartfelt wishes to you.

from:  Deepak B M
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 09:21 IST

Hats off to her - it takes a lot of courage!
God Bless

from:  praveen
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 07:09 IST

May God Bless you Saraswathi.
You are one of those rarest woman who would fulfil Bharathiar's vision.
You are no less great than the women who soared into space.
Chennai streets are equally hazardous in a different way
and need the same amount of courage and conviction.
May you do well in your studies with the blessing of Godess Saraswathi

from:  Vijay Raghavan
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 06:45 IST

Thanks to The Hindu for publishing real life examples demonstrating what Hard Work Means in life. For a current generation who thinks life revolves around Sathyam Cinemas, Express Avenue and Pizza Hut, Saraswathi's way of living/hard working is something they can learn from. My wishes and prayers for Saraswathi to keep continuing the hard work. She can, in her own ways, inspire few folks of the current generation.

from:  Ramanathan
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 06:43 IST
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