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On the driver’s seat

Shanno Begum

Shanno Begum   | Photo Credit: 04dmc Shanno Begum

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Two women drivers share their stories on how their skill helped them in eking out a livelihood

The common perception among men that women can’t drive has been turned on its head with more and more of them deciding to get behind the wheel and handling it quite proficiently. This becomes evident when one observes the traffic on Delhi road. Besides self use they are now running cabs too. “Women drive a lot more cautiously than men, it’s a wrong notion that people have developed that women cannot or should not drive, just because they are considered to be weak,” says Zamarrud Parveen who drives for Uber.

Hailing from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, Zamarrud thanks her parents for their support when she learnt to drive and today that skill is paying her dividends as she is able to support her family independently. “I grew up in an orthodox society but my parents were fairly open-minded,” she comments. Explaining for choosing driving as a career she says, “It was my mother who always wanted to drive but had to suppress her interests due to societal pressure.” Playing literally and figuratively as the driving force, she enrolled her for driving classes. “Today she is living her dreams through me. And now since I drive, she feels as though she has learnt to drive as well,” she says with chin held high.

Zamarrud loves to speed and hence likes to drive on the highway. This is not possible in the city where she gives priority to her passengers comfort. Having chauffered actor Aamir Khan in her Innova on his visit to Delhi, she discloses “Aamir is frightened of speeding. I was not informed of the drop off location and was asked to follow car instead. I had to keep up with the speed of the car ahead but was unable to because he was afraid. At one point we got lost and had to use his GPRS to figure the way!”

Zamarrud feels sad that some people still believe that women should be confined to certain professions only. “Women are not incompetent; they are at par if not better than their male counterparts in any field,” she says emphatically.

Echoing similar thoughts, Shanno Begum, another Uber woman driver stresses on the need to raise girls like the way boys are. “It will make them independent and give them the power to face any situation in life.” Incidentally she is among the first women taxi drivers in Delhi and has been driving since the past seven years and featured on Satyamev Jayate’s episode on domestic violence. .

Widowed Shanno tried to make a living by doing various odd jobs like selling vegetables, etc but it was driving which she learnt through a six-month course at the Azad Foundation which came to her rescue enabling her today to take care of her two daughters and son. Insisting on providing a conducive environment at home for her daughters, she says: “We have to stop instilling fear about the world into our girls. The day we stop differentiating between our sons and daughters and raise them equally, the world will become a better place.”

Satisfied and happy with the career choice, the two women have received positive reactions from their passengers too. “I feel thankful to have met only good people throughout my career as a driver. I have never had any bad experiences. People have only encouraged me,” states Shanno who ferries people in her Honda. Agreeing with her Zamarrud, who has been driving for last three years, says many appreciate and praise her driving skills. Recalling an instance when an old man was sceptical to allow her to drive him she informs that her assurance made him feel better.

Apart from their familial duties the two are eager for self-improvement. Zamarrud pursuing graduation from Jamia Milia Islamia University wants to do post graduation and teach Islamic Studies. Unable to complete her schooling Shanno is eager to do it through correspondence.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 4:12:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/on-the-drivers-seat/article8188859.ece

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