Life in the fast lane

Sheema Zehra
woman cab driver, suman cab driver, cab driver in tricity, indian express news

I am proud that I am an independent woman, raising a child on my own, says Suman. (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Please share the course of your journey as the first woman cab driver in the tricity

It started on March 6, 2019. My husband walked out on me and my four-year-old daughter and we were without a home or food. I wasn’t earning and did not have money to even pay the rent of the house and on top of that he burdened us with a loan of Rs 15,000. One day, I met a cab driver and asked him about the profession, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to cope with it Then a few days later, we had nothing to eat at home and slept hungry. That night, I decided to take the plunge and bought a car on installments, the loan for which I have already paid off.

Did your family support you in your decision to be a cab driver?

My family has always supported me. My father, a farmer, encouraged me to study and pursue sports and I was a state and national-level player. I quit studies after Class XII and was selected for the job of an air hostess, but instead of pursuing a career, I decided to marry and I now realise it was a big mistake. My parents and in-laws have stood by me and help me when I have to work late and long hours.

How have these challenges and struggles changed you as a woman?

I am proud that I am an independent woman, raising a child on my own. The freedom that I feel now is priceless and I am motivated to keep moving forward with hope and optimism.

What are the challenges you face as a cab driver?

Many people don’t look at cab driving as a respectable profession for a woman. I could not find a room to live with my daughter, because I am single and a cab driver. There are biases which are very tough to deal with. I think I am able to drive at night because I live in a city like Chandigarh, which is safe and people here are more open-minded and respectful, as compared to many other cities in the region. There is a great comfort level that I have here. I have never had an experience where a man has been disrespectful or rude to me; in fact, many have said words of encouragement. There are of course all kinds of people in the world. I have had some uncomfortable experiences with passengers at night, for instance with a man who was drunk and spoke to me in an uncivilized manner. It made me rethink my decision of being a cab driver. But over time, I have become stronger and more confident. The car is in my control and no one can harm me. I am thankful of the fact that this profession gives me food, shelter, and helps me provide my child with a respectful and secure life. And yes, people’s mindsets need to change.

Any message for other women?

It is paramount that every woman is professionally qualified and financially independent. She must find pride in her work and respect herself and her decisions. She must not seek approval from any man and not give up her dreams for anyone. Every woman must watch the recently released movie ‘Thappad’, which tells the story of many women and the challenges they face. .