There are times in our lives when we are sick and tired of all the monotony; desperately seeking inspiration to keep ourselves going but nothing helps. We go through numerous articles on the internet on how to make the most out of our mundane lives and steer our lives to a happy ending; but return home at the end of the day, with the same dejected feeling and sleep it off to get set for another repetition.
16th June, 2017 was just like any other day, I was trying to get through with; but it had other plans.
My office is located at an Industrial Area where it is hard to find commute after 8 pm. Unfortunately (or I should say fortunately), I was not driving my own vehicle that day. Thanks to OLA Cabs, I luckily found one vehicle wandering in my area and booked it right away. Being a frequent user of these services, I was under the impression that this must be a regular ‘male’ driver; so I called ‘him’ and inquired about ‘his’ location. The conversation went somewhat like this:
Me: ”BHAIYA! Aap Kahan pe ho abhi?” (Where are you now?)
Driver: ” Aap kahan hai Sir? Main Petrol Pump ke paas hi hoon!” (Where are you Sir? I am near the Petrol Pump.)
Me (Starting to speak gently after assuming that this ‘guy’ has a very soft voice) : ” Bhaiya…aap mera location follow karo..main udhar hi hoon” (Please follow the location pointed on your map, I am waiting right there.)
Driver: “Sir, main petrol pump se ‘aa rahi hoon’..aap please batao agar main sahi direction mein aa rahi hoon kya?” (Sir, I am starting from the Petrol Pump now; but am I coming in the right direction?)
So, this is where I realized that the driver I had assumed to be a ‘guy’ turns out to be a ‘woman”.
Me (a little taken back): ” Umm…aap wahin petrol pump ke paas hi wait kijiye, main aa jaata hoon wahan!” (You can wait near the Petrol Pump itself, I will meet you there.)
I disconnected the call, looked at my colleague and said “Koi lady hai yaar…strange”. I was like a kilometre away from her location so I asked my colleague to drop me off near the Petrol Pump she was waiting at and told him to carry on from there; as I knew it would be difficult for her to locate me in that area. During my pillion ride to the Petrol Pump, I was starting to have those typical thoughts about ‘Women Empowerment’ and how remarkable it is that they are being encouraged to do jobs which were barely considered by women mainly because of the safety issues in India. My excitement to see her grew even more as we were moving towards that Petrol Pump. I checked the driver’s profile on my phone and it read ‘Nirmala Ford‘.
I called her again after reaching the Petrol Pump, coordinated with her and we finally met.
I had already realized while crossing the road that this was no ordinary cab and it looked a bit familiar as I had read about the launch of those electric cars at Nagpur, Maharashtra. This lady driver looked a bit old and that made me even more curious about her story. She greeted me with a warm welcome to which I reciprocated with a smile and completed the formalities of that driver-customer relationship. I sat right next to her in the front seat and we started for the most inspiring cab ride of my life. (At least, until now)
Obviously there was an awkward silence for a few metres, as I was still soaking up the joy and excitement of travelling with my first female cab driver. I had a barrage of questions to ask her but didn’t know where to start. Unable to hold it in anymore, I finally broke the ice.
Me: “Gear nahi hai na ye car mein, huh?” (This car has no gears, huh?) *finds the dumbest way*
Nirmala (The Driver): ” Nahi Sir..ye automatic hai..etc etc” (This car is an automatic one!)
I kept on nodding to all the information she briefed me about the new electric car; and how this whole scheme was inaugurated just 15 days ago to have a clean and green environment in the city.
Me: “Okay..to sirf aap hi hain yaa aur female drivers bhi join hue hain uss day pe?” (Was it just you or was the purpose of this inauguration an effort to empower women by encouraging them to join such services?)
Nirmala: “Nahi Sir aisa kuch nahi..sirf main hi thi aur koi nahi..to shayad main Nagpur se pehli female hoon as a driver for this cab service provider.” (It wasn’t specifically about women empowerment but you can say that I am the first female to be appointed as a driver at Nagpur for OLA Cabs.)
I congratulated her for the great recognition and also told her that she would set an example for a lot of women and men for taking up this role and that too at the age of 52.
Not every successful story begins from a point of despair, but this one did.
Nirmala’s husband, who has now officially retired ,works at an organization earning a minimum salary which never seemed enough to meet the needs of this old couple. Hoping that their children would live with them, the couple had invested all their life savings to expand their house to accommodate their children but no one stayed and simply abandoned this old couple. Without any financial support; Nirmala (48 then) stepped out of the house, to learn something she once dreamt to- Driving a Car! She explained the general tendency of how most women learn driving but never really become skilled enough to drive at any time of the day. She also told that she used to wear fake glasses while driving her two-wheeler as it prepared her well for driving the car at night with the headlights of other vehicles glaring at you. I could see her eyes shining with passion when she was talking about her training period at the driving school.
By 2017, our brave Nirmala was running her private business of providing cab services to nearby people. Her business unfortunately had stopped growing and she was slowly running out of money (Probably because of the gender bias or social prejudice..just saying..). At this point, I interjected, asking her whether her husband was okay with all this or not. She looked at me with a lovely smile and said “My husband had served me and my children for a long time, I thought it was my time to go out there and help him with it.” I told her that ideally it should have been the children serving you two; but the kind hearted mother she is, laughed it off and said ” Maybe it was not in my destiny, but I truly wish the best for them.” I was left speechless.
The idea of joining OLA Cabs came to her when she read a newspaper advertisement of the same. The team of OLA praised her for taking this initiative and instantly enrolled her for the duty.
“Don’t you ever feel scared? There are so many unfortunate cases happening all over the country.” , I asked her this at the end hoping that this immensely brave woman might fear a thing or two. The courageous woman calmly said, ”Nothing comes easy in life, doing a man’s job being a woman was certainly one of my biggest fears but I succeeded in eradicating it from the core of my heart. When it comes to your survival, you have got no other option but to take that risk. And I hope many more women will also do the same now. You can do much more that simply sitting at home and cursing your fate until you die.”
Finally, the journey was over in no time and I asked her if she is okay with me taking a picture of hers.
“People usually ask for selfies these days you know”, she said laughingly.
We often look for inspiration in Forbes and other business magazines but it never really works as per our expectations. People like Nirmala Ford might never get mentioned in such magazines because they have not made it big in terms of money yet; but are they any less inspirational than those we read about?? At the age of 52, when people generally stare at the end of their lives, there are people like Nirmala Ford who start with a new mission in their lives. I am 23 right now and complaining already (Hope this life altering ride changes things for me too.)
I have no idea when I will get another blessed opportunity of riding with her again but I know one thing for sure that Nirmala is unstoppable now and her ascend has begun.
Walking home, wearing a smile after a really long time, I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and saw Nirmala waving her hands. I thought I might have left something behind in her cab.
“Please give me 5 Stars if possible.”, She said.
“Óf course! But will you give me your blessings in return?”, I said.
We smiled at each other maybe for the last time and parted ways.