Mums break barriers and shine from the driver’s seatRekha Balakrishnan
Meet Sowmya, Shobha and Mahalakshmi - Ola driver partners who are mothers with great dreams for their children.
On Mother’s Day, as we salute women and mothers from all walks of life, we also shine the spotlight on ordinary women who have braved the odds to be where they are.
These women are on the road to prosperity, thanks to their courage and determination to meet life’s challenges head on with the aim to provide the best for their children.
Shobha, auto driver, Mysuru
Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “A woman is a like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”
Shobha’s life changed when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her daughter was a baby, and there was no option but to be the sole breadwinner of the family.
“My father got me a job in a hospital, but I found it difficult because of the night shifts. A few relatives who had seen women drivers in Bengaluru suggested I drive an auto. So I became one.”
Shobha, now 42, has been driving her auto in the city for 10 years now, and for the last two years has attached her vehicle to the the platform. Life has changed in many ways.
“When I started as an auto driver, it was difficult as a lady to survive in this industry. Being the sole bread winner, my earnings used to be very less because I had to decline late nights and long trips. With Ola, getting customers has been easy and my income has more than tripled,” she says.
Her 14-year-old daughter is very proud of her mother. “I have not allowed her to feel the absence of her father. I have been both mother and father to her. She is proud of the way I have brought her up as a single parent. I have great dreams for her, want her to study well and take up a profession of her choice,” she adds.
Sowmya, auto driver, Mysuru
After completing her graduation, Sowmya wanted to enrol for an MBA course, but that didn’t happen because “my English isn’t that good”, she tells me over the phone.
When I remark that her grasp on the language is remarkably good, she laughs at the other end. “Ma’am, I speak to the passengers travelling in my auto and am learning English this way.” I can feel a sense of pride in her voice.
The 26-year-old has been driving an auto for many years and with Ola for the past nine months. “My father is an auto driver and I learned to drive an auto very early in life. I used to take trips part-time when I was studying as well to supplement the family income,” she says.
After she got married and had a child, she waited for a year to start driving an auto full-time. “Being a driver gives me the flexibility of working hours that a regular 9 to 5 job does not offer. I have time to look after my son and take trips as convenient,” she adds.
Soumya does 10-12 trips in a day and covers around 12o km. Sometimes, if the passengers don’t mind she takes her son along. “My family has been extremely supportive and encouraged me to do what I want to. In fact, it’s my mother-in-law who suggested I drive an auto full-time as the timings are flexible”.
Would she be happy if her son grows up and follows her footsteps? Sowmya is both pragmatic and practical. “My father has always told me that whatever work you do, do it with dignity, as long as you are not doing anything bad.”
Like every mother, she has big plans for her child. “I want him to have a good education and I want to strive to be a good mother to him always,” she says.
Mahalakshmi – cab driver, Bengaluru
Mahalakshmi had wanted to contribute towards improving her family’s living conditions. Three years back while scanning through many job opportunities, she came across Ola. The convenience and flexible timings lead her to start her journey as an independent driver with Ola in the city.
She has been able to provide her family a comfortable living and support the educational needs of her two children who have been admitted in residential schools.
“I did not just want to sit at home and be a housewife. I wanted to go out there and do something on my own. Driving a cab provided me with a strong sense of freedom and convenience,” she says.
Mahalakshi has two children, a daughter who is 12, and a 10-yer-old son. She stays at KR Puram in Bengaluru. “My children are in good schools. But I certainly don’t want them to become cab drivers when they grow up. I dream of conventional careers for them, like being doctors or engineers. Let them lead good lives,” she avers.
She is saving up to buy one more car to let it out on rent. “Life is good and I am happy with how it has turned out,” she says.