Pushpa is a Sakha Cab driver who has four brothers and a sister. Her younger brothers work in a little shop that Pushpa and her mother have helped them start. Although, the shop is not doing very well. They live in their own house, but the family has debts that are proving hard to pay off. Things got complicated when Pushpa’s father passed away recently. The responsibility of her household fell on Pushpa’s shoulder.
Pushpa had never been employed before she started driving. She did an IT and an English-speaking courses, but these did not help her get any employment. In 2015, she met Azad mobilizers and decided to join Women on Wheels programme and become professional driver. She was a college student at the time. Inher 2nd year at the college, she successfully passed the employment test at Azad and decided to leave the college, as her family got into financial difficulties and she had to earn to make the ends meet.
She joined Sakha, a company that provides employment for women drivers trained by Azad. She failed some of the first test drives with potential clients. But she chose not to give up, but rather work hard. Eventually she started working with Sakha Cabs for Women by Women. When she drove a car home after a full day’s work, her father was beaming with pride. She was the first driver who joined Sakha Cabs without a private placement job before. She uses her salary to contribute toward expenses at home – paying utility bills, buying groceries, and giving money to her mother and siblings for their health expenses. Pushpa singlehandedly took care of her father’s medicines and later of his death rites.
Although she has never needed to use what she learned in the self-defense training sessions in Azad so far, they have helped her feel less scared and more confident. Other drivers on the road, usually men, are friendly toward her.
Before Azad, Pushpa mostly stayed at home, and did not have friends. She was afraid of buses, going out on her own, and talking aloud, and had been quite isolated till she started going to college. Joining Azad has given her strength to be more outgoing and interact with the world. She has become independent in her choice of clothes. She is also able to better tackle eve teasing on the streets and in buses. She has found friends at Azad, with whom she can share stories and problems and who form a mutual support structure.
Pushpa has made it clear to her family that although she is willing to get married, she will not quit driving. Pushpa wants to continue working as a commercial driver with Sakha and maybe also someday restart the college.
In her own words, “Pehle meinchupchaaprehtithiaurboltinhithi. Jab se Azad aur Sakha meinKaamkrrhi hu, bolnelggi hu. Pehle kahinaati-jaatibhinhithi, ab night duty bhikarti hu, darnahilagtahai.” (Initially, I stayed quiet and didn’t interact much. Since my association with Azad and Sakha, I have started speaking up. I didn’t travel before however now I go for my night duties and I am no longer afraid.)