People in my conservative town seldom see women drivers , except may be on two wheelers. If they see one, there is always a tendency by men on the road to bully them and pass bad comments on their driving.
The other day they had a huge surprise. They had their eyes jutting out of their sockets in astonishment as a lady drove into our town on a 14 wheel truck with a cargo weighing 30 tonnes ( around 66000 pounds).
She was Yogita Raghuvanshi, the first woman truck driver of India.
Astonishment turned into admiration and many were seen congratulating her and taking pictures with her. All newspapers covered her arrival prominently.
On Monday morning, passers-by gawked in disbelief as a petite woman in her late forties expertly manoeuvred a massive 14-wheeler truck with its 30 tonne-cargo through Palakkad’s busy English Church Road.
She had driven a liquor consignment all the way from Bhopal to a Kerala State Beverages Corporation godown.
Yogita Raguvanshi is far from the archetypal inter-State trucker. She also happens to be a qualified lawyer, who preferred the tough and risky life on the highways to look after her family, instead of the pittance she would have earned as a beginner in the black robe.
She and her huge truck have been criss-crossing the country through all kinds of terrain since 2000.
First half of her life story was typical of an oppressive patriarchal society. Her’s was an arranged marriage to some one she and her family believed to be a lawyer in a far away city. Only after marriage she realised that her husband was a truck driver. Life went on smoothly for 9 years and Yogita was able to study and graduate in law. Her life turned upside down in 2000, when her husband died in an accident. She had to look after her two children with not much income coming from working as a law assistant.
At that juncture she took a bold decision. She decided to take up the profession of her husband. There was always a shortage of truck drivers and they were paid well. It was very difficult at first for a woman in a man’s world of Indian roads. She was bullied and booed but she never lost her cool. She always addressed her fellow truck drivers respectfully as bhai (brother) and just ignored the catcalls. Yogita chose only carefully selected routes and cargo and became a very reliable and successful truck driver.
Her unique achievement got recognition in 2013. The truck manufacturer Mahindra group facilitated her and awarded her a truck. Driving her own new truck, made her life easier as she was able to earn more.
She has already driven more than five hundred thousand kilometres throughout the length and breadth of India. She is planning to continue in her job till her kids are well settled in life.
“I certainly am not doing this job because of a resolve to break stereotypes. I am behind this wheel owing to my circumstances. So please don’t make out as if I am from another world,” she said, leaning on the steering wheel.
She is correct. If this was a much more gender equitable society, she would not have been considered as coming from another world. But in present day India, her inspiring story of choosing and succeeding in a tough stereotype breaking job make us feel she is coming from another world.