The auto driver who could have been MP
Sunita Chaudhray is Delhi's first and only woman auto-rickshaw driver. And she could have been MP if only her nomination had reached on time.
She is Delhi's first and only woman auto-rickshaw driver. And she could have been MP if only her nomination had reached on time.
But Sunita Chaudhry, 25, hasn't given up hope and says she is determined to contest the next parliamentary election whenever they are held.
After all, she may be young but it is familiar territory for the woman who contested the assembly elections in December from south Delhi's Mehrauli constituency as the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party's candidate.
This time, the Awami Party beckoned and asked her to contest from Baghpat constituency in Uttar Pradesh against stalwarts like Rashtriya Lok Dal's Ajit Singh. But her papers reached after the closure of nominations on April 24. If not, she says she would have definitely won.
"They were already scared of me," she says of her could be opponents in the constituency. "They were scared because I would have got the Muslims' vote since the party I represented was a Muslim party. Since I am Jat, I would have won the Jat votes too."
Wearing her political naivete on her sleeve, Sunita says she wants to be MP because it means power.
"A member of parliament has so much power. If I want to help somebody, policemen will be much more respectful to me. They will be scared of me, because I will be able to transfer them anytime I want."
She also says she will never leave Delhi. "Once I become an MP, they will give me a big house in Delhi itself, won't they?" she asks innocently.
While her political goals might be hazy, the young woman, who braves Delhi's notoriously unsafe roads day in and day out, has a definite agenda of "raising the voice of the poor who are in need of help".
Casually dressed in jeans and shirt, with short-cropped hair, she says that it has been tough breaking into a male bastion.
"No one helped me but I wanted to stand on my own feet. After two years of auto driving, I have managed to get a license to drive taxis. And now I am trying for heavy vehicle driving permit from the government," Sunita says.
"Women should learn to stand on their own feet. There are women with children. Their husbands get drunk and beat them up. Leave the man, I tell them. Work hard and you can earn your own bread," she says with a maturity beyond her years.
"Many women come to me from across the border because they are tortured by their husbands. There are girls who come to me because they are in love with somebody and their families don't accept them.
"I keep telling them that we must never give up hope. If the Sessions Court rejects us, we can go to the High Court. If they reject, we can go the Supreme Court."
Sunita says she helps everybody who comes to her, sometimes even sacrificing driving her auto-rickshaw for the day.
"Today, even my male counterparts respect me. At the auto stand they always let me take the first customer. 'Ladies first' they say," she smiles.
The respect has been hard earned. Chaudhry, who has studied till Class 10, was married off at the age of 13 but ran away from her in-laws' home in Uttar Pradesh due to abuse by her husband.
Her parents who live in Uttar Pradesh still don't know that she drives an auto rickshaw here and has already contested elections.
"They will not feel nice that their daughter is driving a vehicle around in Delhi. So I have never told them."
And what about her auto rickshaw? "I will never leave my auto. I will keep driving it even if I win."
It's an odd combination of observing the niceties of life, being loyal to an inanimate object that gave her a degree of self-reliance and a certain bravado touched with innocence.
But Sunita is all this - even if she has still a long way to go before she becomes MP.