“My husband has been an auto driver. His income alone wasn’t sufficient for the family. So I asked him to teach me to drive auto because I also wanted to earn for my family.
Initially, when I started, people used to stare at me. 4 years ago I was one of the first woman auto driver in Thane. Their stares used to make me conscious. Many a times people would ask me, isn’t your husband doing any job? Why are you doing this? And I would tell them, just like you go to office, this is my office. After some time, slowly people accepted me. They started taking photos with me and appreciating me. In no time, the word went around and newspapers featured me.
Jt Commissioner of Police Lakshminarayana Sir saw an article on me in a newspaper and sent the clipping to ACP Rashmi Karandikar Madam. Around the same time one bad incident had happened in Thane. One girl, Swapnali Lad, had jumped off a running auto because the auto driver was taking her in a wrong direction and refused to stop. She was in coma due to her injuries.
Because of this, there was a need for female auto drivers in the city. But there was one problem, As per the rule, the driver must be SSC pass. And I was just 8th pass. So, Rashmi Karandikar madam and Lakshminarayana Sir went upto Mantralaya and got the rule changed. From SSC it was brought down to 8th pass for women. This encouraged a lot of girls to join.
Today, there are more than 100 women auto drivers in Thane. I have taught around 15 of them.
When I started, my mother in law totally supported me. Since I used to be out the whole day, she would look after my children. Without her support it would have been impossible for me to do this.
In June this year… life threw a challenge at me. My husband had a heart attack and at the same time my son had to be hospitalised for his severe backache. One day, he couldn’t even lift his leg. I rushed him to a hospital. When the MRI was done, it turned out to be a cyst on his spine. The doctor told us, if not operated he can be paralysed for life. Both, my son and my husband were in a critical condition and needed to be looked after. With both of them in hospital at the same time, I was in a real mess. Financial pressure also was killing me.
When Rashmi Karandikar madam got to know about my condition, she asked me to contact Sonali Lohar Madam.
And as they say, when you really need him, God manifests in some form or the other, and I believe in my case he did in Sonali Lohar madam’s form. She helped me tremendously. She made sure that my son gets the best of the best treatment. He got operated in Jupiter. Madam has given him a new life. If it wasn’t for her, my son would have never walked again.
My son is better but it will take him 3 more months before he could go back to school. My husband is still recovering from his angioplasty. So he still can’t drive the auto. Until then, I have to support my family. And with god’s grace, I am sure, I will manage to do that.”