Since the beginning of time, Indian mothers have been forced to fit the stereotype of a loving, diminutive little thing that wipes away her kids’ tears with her pallu and whips up great cuisines in the kitchen to feed her bread-winning husband and children — who will become her budhape ka sahara.
Who knew that it would only take a few driving lessons to steer away from this cookie-cutter role of a matriarch?
The league of bindaas women
Guwahati-based single mother, Pinky — the first and only female rider of two-wheeler taxi service Rapido and delivery woman at Uber Eats — says driving is a ‘bindaas’ job for women.
When faced with financial troubles, she too tried her hand at socially acceptable jobs such as working for a maid, making pickles, papads and the works. She says, “Until a year ago, I used to pack masalas and deliver them to shops. But that was very time-consuming and I wasn’t able to spend as much time with my daughter as I would like to. On top of that, shopkeepers used to take the products on credit and payments would get delayed. So, I worked as a house help. Apart from being paid less, working in someone else’s house takes a toll on your body — and is very demeaning.”
Pinky is the first and only female rider of two-wheeler taxi service Rapido in Guwahati, Assam. (Photo: DailyO)
On her friend’s suggestion, she decided to put her scooter and mobile phone to good use to join food delivery services. But it seems that companies were not ready to deal with the female force just yet.
“I tried joining Swiggy but they did not seem to want a female rider then. I later joined UberEats and out of the 42 candidates, I was the only woman during the training session. It was very awkward — but I managed to get through it. I borrowed money to pay for my vehicle insurance and a kind woman at their office waived off my joining fees to help me out. My first day income was Rs 435 — I have still kept it aside to remind me how hard life used to be.”
Her husband’s untimely death and financial troubles after a horrid accident also nudged 43-year-old Uber driver, Gulesh Chauhan, to vroom her way out of misery.
But it is much easier said than done, especially when log kya kehenge is the big parameter you need to watch out for.
An Uber driver since 2016, Gulesh Chauhan is the highest-rated driver on the app and operates in New Delhi. (Photo: Uber)
But when the going gets tough, the tough get driving.
One of the highest-rated drivers at Uber, Gulesh learnt to drive in 2007 as a way to honour her husband’s dying wish. She says, “One of my relatives had a car and their teenage son knew how to drive. So, I bribed him to teach me driving in return for petrol money. Another reason was that during that time, the new DTC buses were introduced and there were job openings for women who knew how to drive.”
Yes, she did consider getting behind the wheel of the huge low-floor AC bus on the mean streets on Delhi because — why not?
She says, "I have always had a passion to take on anything. Even at 40, I believe that I can take on any challenge and I am no less than anyone. The only regret I have is that I am not educated. My strength comes from my mother. She used to tell me that I can do anything I want."
But seriously… log kya kehenge?
Those mythical creatures aka ‘log’ said a lot, but behind every strong woman is yet another strong woman.
“People used to taunt me saying that I drive around with unknown men and that I have become a loose woman. But my mother told me to never look back.” From encouraging her to shut up naysayers and even providing financial assistance, her mother has been her rock.
But she does admit the biggest hurdle was to overcome her own mindset.
“When my son suggested that I drive cabs, I slapped him and asked him if he wanted his mother to be a taxi driver. He just told me that it didn’t matter whether I drove a taxi or an aeroplane. That made me realise that if a child can have such progressive ideas, then why couldn’t I?”
Uber driver Gulesh credits her son and her mother for encouraging her to shirk sexist comments. (Photo: Uber)
The female force for Pinky is her 10-year-old daughter, who also accompanies her during her delivery rounds. She says, “I schedule my day according to my daughter’s plans — sometimes, while delivering food, I take her along. She loves it. We get to talk while I work and she gets yummy treats when we are out.”
Future is Fast and Furious!
Now, the mother-daughter duo has a plan to add two more wheels to their family by getting a car.
Pinky admits, “My daughter and I love steel grey cars. Someday, we may just get one — then, I will become a cab driver. “
Even for Gulesh, despite having come so far, her lack of education is her only regret. But she has found a new resolve. “I think that when my son gets married, should his wife want to study further, I am willing to work to finance it, so that what I couldn’t achieve, she can,” she says.
And while Gulshan plans to celebrate a quiet Mother's Day with her son (who has also composed a song for her for the occasion) and Pinky will be working today, these mothers will make you salute the real strength of a woman — and a mother.
Happy Mother's Day!