Bengaluru

Breaking barriers on the road

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Every passenger expresses the wish to know Girija’s story

She braves the city’s exasperating traffic, has a firm eye on potholes, and hopes to make autorickshaw rides safe for women, children and senior citizens.

Girija S. (34), one of the few women autorickshaw drivers in the city, says she feels like a “free bird” when she is on the road. “Every time I drive, people are always looking at me,” she says.

Every passenger wants to know “her story”. And, college students shower her with lots of love and encourage her, and even request to be photographed with her after they reach their destination.

Ms. Girija dropped out of school after completing Class 10. She then worked in a garment unit but gave up the job as she had to give her daughter more time. Taking up a regular job would have meant staying away from home for long hours. “I would have to work for long hours for a meagre salary. I decided to quit and do something on my own. As I come from a family of auto drivers, my first option was to become an auto driver.”

She knew that taking the road less travelled would come with several hurdles. Several driving schools refused to coach her and told her that the job was not “meant” for women. Her family also tried to discourage her. Finally, a driving school agreed to train her. Two years later, she says, “There is no profession that is meant only for men.”

Ms. Girija operates a rented auto and hopes to buy one some day. She works throughout the week, but only within a 10-km radius in south Bengaluru so that she can go back home when her daughter returns from school.

According to her, with increase in instances of crime against women, many passengers feel happy when they see a woman driver. “More women should take up this profession. I’m now training another woman to drive the auto.” However, she is quick to add that there are many challenges that autorickshaw drivers face these days. “With the increase in auto fares and introduction of taxis, the number of customers we get has reduced,” she adds.

Ms. Girija says her only aim is to educate her daughter well. “My husband does not contribute for the household expenditure. I want to ensure that my daughter’s needs are taken care of.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 7:49:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/breaking-barriers-on-the-road/article6691423.ece

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