On the busy Santhome High Road where nobody stops for anyone, there is, perhaps, one circumstance that brings vehicles to a screeching halt — a punctured tyre. As soon as the nimble 25-year-old M. Indira gets word of it, she arms herself with basic tools and breezes off on her moped to attend to her customer.
Her roadside shop has no name board, and she sits in alane off the main road beside her push cart which she has numbered ‘2345’. But, ‘Indira puncture kadai’, she says, has a reputation that precedes it. “Since motorists cannot see my shop, the autorickshaw drivers give my number when someone is stranded because of a flat tyre,” she says. It is occurrences such as these that keep Indira going every month. While her husband, a school van driver, gets a fixed monthly income, Indira opens her shop at 8 a.m. and wraps up at sundown. She fixes tyres of everything from two-wheelers to cars.
On Thursday, she got her first customer only at 11.15 a.m. “Some days are good, but many are not,” notes Indira who started off on her own with the help of her husband around four years back. “On some days, I make Rs. 500, some days just Rs. 100. During monsoons, I have to close shop on some days. But I am not dependent on anyone,” she says.
Indira says that she and her husband had a shop on the main road near a petrol bunk, but they had to move to a by-lane a few years ago due to several reasons. “My younger son fell ill and I spent most of my time taking care of him. When he died due to kidney failure, my husband said that I needed a distraction. He taught me everything I needed to know to run the shop,” she says. Her only son now studies in class IV.
While some come looking for her, she also travels in and around Santhome to help motorists out. Indira says that she increases her labour charge only when it is absolutely necessary. “I charge Rs. 70 instead of Rs. 50 because prices had gone up. But, some haggle even to pay the additional twenty rupees,” she laments. However, some are generous, and even tip her.
Indira is now looking for resources to set up a small bunk shop. Though the job felt physically demanding when she started out, she says that she likes it on her own. “The best part is that I am not answerable to anyone. I am my own boss,” she says. She can be contacted at 9790928605.