Meet women in the driver’s seat in pink city
The women chauffeurs are all adept at changing tyres; they know the basics of car servicing, and are trained in self-defence. A policeman once caught Ghingar for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way but he let her off without a finejaipur Updated: May 22, 2017 19:06 IST
Poonam Ghingar, barely five feet tall, drives an Innova, an eight-seater multi-utility vehicle, of a lady fashion designer in the city.
The 24-year-old works nearly 8 hours a day, and her work includes driving her employer to work, sometimes to the club, taking her children to school, and so on.
“When I stop at traffic lights, people around look at me with amusement. And I am away from their prying eyes after the light goes green,” Ghingar laughs off.
She is one of nearly 50 women chauffeurs in the city who were trained by Azad Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to make women financially independent. They were placed by Azad’s sister concern Sakha Consulting Wings, a private firm that provides women chauffeurs to female clients only.
“It was initially very hard for me to convince my parents to let me work as a chauffeur,” says Ghingar. “They discouraged me, said I take up tailoring instead. But gradually, things changed. Now it’s my father who cooks food for me and packs my lunch in the morning,” says Ghingar, the eldest among the five siblings.
She was inspired by the story of Shanno Begum, one of the first women cab drivers in Delhi, who appeared in the TV show Satyamev Jayate hosted by Bollywood star Aamir Khan.
“When foreign clients of my employer come and see me, they say that they never expected to see women chauffeurs in India,” says Ghingar. “Pata nahi kya soch ke aate hain India (They come to India with such stupid notions).”
The women chauffeurs are all adept at changing tyres; they know the basics of car servicing, and are trained in self-defence. A policeman once caught Ghingar for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way but he let her off without a fine.
Mamta Verma (23) is another female chauffeur who works for a lady architect. Reeling from a recently annulled child marriage and domestic abuse, she says her job has changed things significantly for her.
“Earlier, when I’d run back to my home after being abused at my in-laws’ place, my parents would curse me. But with money, everything changes,” says Verma.
Asked what was her ambition in childhood, she says, “Bachpane mein to shaadi hi ho gayi (I was married off in childhood).” She recalls how the events in her life shattered her confidence and how even the other trainee women chauffeurs would make fun of her for being timid.
“I remember how I would apply the brakes when I saw a truck or a low-floor bus on the road. Now I drive on highways and overtake trucks like this,” Verma snaps her fingers with a beam of joy on her face. She loves driving and at times, she says, even her employer is impressed when she manoeuvres the car through narrow lanes.
As the day draws to a close, and the clouds gather overhead, the two women at Azad Foundation’s office decide to leave, discussing what they be taking home for their families – samosas or kachodis.