You can’t dress up like this’, ‘you can’t leave home at this hour’, ‘you can’t take up this profession’. Do these diktats sound familiar? The answer would be yes for many women in this part of the world. We are way too often told what we can or cannot do, including what we must study, what job we should take up or which boy we should marry.
Most of these roles are defined by gender with a lot of ‘not woman-like’ comments being passed at those who decide to break these rules.
Mehjabeen Sheikh, Tejasvi and Prajakta Salunkhe are some such women who are path-breakers. They decided to take up a profession that is largely male-dominated — that of being cab drivers — and are completely satisfied and happy with their choice. They tell us about their journey.
‘MY WORK PROVIDES FOR MY KIDS’ EDUCATION’
Mehjabeen Sheikh, Mumbai
I have been driving a T permit cab for more than two years now. I had learnt driving long ago. But before taking it up professionally, I used to handle the garbage disposing teams in the city, run tiffin service and other such odd jobs. None of these jobs paid me enough, but were quite taxing.
Then friends suggested that I take up something that utilises my driving skills. I found it interesting and took up a job as a driver with a private travel company. Soon enough I could buy a Hyundai i10 myself. I immediately registered it with Ola and began driving it.
I usually begin business after 9-10 pm and return home in the morning. The mornings are spent in preparing tiffins for family and taking care of household work. I also get some time in the day to rest. I am an insomniac so I just need a few hours of sleep everyday. Despite that if I do feel sleepy during work hours, I park my car in a safe place — usually around a police chowky and take a power nap.
I have always found very decent passengers and never had any reason to be scared. In a city like Mumbai, there’s anyway little to fear. The city doesn’t sleep. My business has helped me provide for my children’s education. My daughter is now pursuing her graduation (Bachelor in Management Science). My husband supports my profession. So I am quite stress-free.
CRAZY ABOUT WHEELS
Prajakta Salunkhe, Airoli, Navi Mumbai
I owned a bike as a youngster and have always been quite crazy about bikes and cars. Also, I have always been more keen on doing business than a 9-5 kind of job. That’s when I thought of registering with a cab service. I bought a Chevrolet Beat as soon as I was out of college and a year and a half ago, I got into this business. I now drive my cab from 7 am to 5 pm, and help my parents run the household. I have got great family support, and have always found very friendly customers. So this profession is doing me a lot of good.
TURNED PASSION INTO PROFESSION
I always loved driving. I used to ride motorcycles like Pulsar earlier. My family suggested that I turn my passion into profession. So I started my own tours and travels business in Solapur. Six months ago, I bought a new Renault Pulse, which I drive for Ola.
I drive from 6 am to around lunch time and then again in the evenings. I earn a decent income. Earlier, I was studying for a number of competitive exams and even worked as a salesperson in a local mobile store. But now, I earn better and I am thinking of buying another car to expand my business. Despite being the only female cab driver in Solapur, I have zero fear in pursuing this profession as I have always led a sporty life. I used to play State-level badminton for my school and college but had to discontinue for health reasons. I now plan to stabilise my business, earn well and then resume playing badminton.